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Nets rally but fall short against undefeated Pacers

Alan Anderson of the Nets blocks a first-quarter

Alan Anderson of the Nets blocks a first-quarter shot from Indiana Pacers forward Paul George. (Nov. 9, 2013) Credit: Jim McIsaac

These days, the Nets are like a mini-version of the Cyclone, Coney Island's signature ride.

They treat you to a big thrill on the uphill climb, evoking a strong anticipation as the car heads toward the massive first drop. But once it's over and the roller coaster pulls into the loading area, you're left a little unfulfilled, almost begging for more.

Exhibit Z? Take Saturday night's game against the Pacers.

Joe Johnson's potential score-tying three-point shot with 11.8 seconds remaining bounced off the back of the rim and David West sank two free throws with 9.5 seconds left to seal the Nets' 96-91 loss to the Pacers (7-0) at Barclays Center.

After an offseason that created big expectations, the Nets (2-4) are mired in mediocrity through the season's first two weeks. They are beating themselves with careless turnovers, failed possessions and unacceptable defense.

"It's frustrating," Kevin Garnett said. "But I don't think you put a timetable on something that you are trying to get to perfection. I don't know if you can even put a timetable on something like that. Although you try to cut down on mistakes and you try to form chemistry and you try to be consistent, I don't think a timetable is something you can put on that . . . But it is frustrating."

Johnson had the hot hand for the Nets, which is why coach Jason Kidd drew up a play for him on the Nets' biggest possession. With the Pacers leading 94-91, Johnson bounced a three-point try off the back rim with just under 12 seconds left. "It was a great look," he said. "It felt good. It just didn't go down. We definitely needed it that time."

Johnson had 17 points, as did Deron Williams, who added 10 assists. But the Nets' point guard also had a pair of bad plays down the stretch. He crashed into George Hill on Hill's three-point attempt with 2:51 to play, leading to Hill draining two free throws for a 92-87 edge. Williams also committed a critical turnover with 1:06 left and the Nets trailing by three.

"That was a stupid foul," Williams said, "and then the turnover definitely cost us."

Roy Hibbert got the better of Brook Lopez in the battle of the big men. Hibbert had 15 points, including some uncontested jumpers and a hook shot with such touch that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would have given him a nod of approval. Hibbert added 11 rebounds.

Lopez looked passive early, double-pumping on some layup attempts and wildly tossing some shots up toward the basket, almost as if he were hoping to draw a foul, rather than powering straight up toward the rim. He finished with 16 points after finally getting it going late in the fourth.

Rookie Mason Plumlee played well for more than 15 minutes, bringing an infusion of energy and a knack for finishing around the rim -- two things the Nets needed with Andrei Kirilenko sitting this one out because of back spasms.

Still, none of that was enough to push the Nets in the right direction and keep them from losing for the third time in four games.

"We don't know when it's going to turn," Paul Pierce said. "The thing is we've got to be patient when it does. A lot of teams go through the frustration. When the losing piles up, then [comes] the arguing, then the whispering behind the back, then the negative press. But that's not this team right here.

"We're a veteran team that's going to show a lot of patience, and we understand we are going to stay positive until this thing definitely turns around."

Williams is sure the Nets will get on track soon.

"We're all coming together and trying to win a championship," he said, "and it doesn't happen overnight. We are not panicking. We know it's going to come together. We are confident that we will overcome these little struggles, and we are going to stay together no matter what's happening on the outside."

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