Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons, left, drives against Nets center...

Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons, left, drives against Nets center Nic Claxton during the first half of an NBA game in Portland, Ore., on Wednesday. Credit: AP/Craig Mitchelldyer

PORTLAND, Ore. — Both the Nets and Trail Blazers entered Wednesday with just one win in 2024. While the Trail Blazers are in rebuild mode, the Nets still envision themselves competing for at least a play-in spot.

It spoke volumes to how low the Nets have sunk over the past month. They sunk even lower with a 105-103 loss to the Trail Blazers at Moda Center.

Anfernee Simons made the game-winning shot on a floater with 0.2 seconds left. He drove past Mikal Bridges and found little resistance in the paint as he shot over Nic Claxton’s outstretched hand.

“We were going to double [Jerami] Grant or Simons,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “Give [Simons] credit. Good move to get to the rim and finish”

It was also the third go-ahead or tying shot in the final 10 seconds. Grant’s putback layup with 9.7 seconds left put the Trail Blazers up 103-101. Cam Johnson answered back with a driving layup to tie the score with 5.2 seconds remaining.

The Nets gave up 50 paint points Wednesday night, including final two baskets.

“I just thought overall, we left some on the table at the beginning of the game first half of knowing personnel-wise who was going to drive the basketball and who could get to the rim,” Vaughn said.

“So that’s a big piece of protecting the paint and knowing who are drivers and who are shooters.”

Despite icy weather keeping most of the crowd at Moda Center home, fans left with something to cheer about. As for the Nets, they’ve now lost four consecutive games and have lost 14 of their last 17.

"I think I could’ve been more solid protecting the rim for us tonight," Nic Claxton said. "I definitely should’ve had some more blocks. Getting swept by Portland it definitely leaves a bad taste in your mouth but we can’t fold, we just can’t fold. We got to keep working."
The Nets led by 11 in the third quarter but they opened the fourth as cold as the icy weather. Thanks to a (1-for-8 shooting start), they allowed the Trail Blazers to climb back in the game and retake the lead at 88-87.

It was reminiscent of the team’s Jan. 7 meeting where the Trail Blazers stayed close then rallied in overtime for a win. (If that loss was a low point for the Nets, this one was lower).

Since that game, the Trail Blazers had lost four straight contests by double digits, including a 62-point loss at the Thunder. It didn’t matter as both teams battled to the final minute. Simons tied the score at 101 with 54.3 seconds left. After Bridges missed his attempt, Malcolm Brogdon missed a layup but after two offensive rebounds, Grant had an easy putback to put Portland up.

It was yet another series of mistakes that cost the Nets. Bridges finished with 21 points and briefly left the game in the third quarter after being clipped on his right leg by Jabari Walker.

He checked back in with 9:10 remaining in the fourth quarter. Spencer Dinwiddie picked up the scoring slack with 19 points, all in the second half.

Unlike past games, the Nets started much better, shooting 50% in the first half. Even more encouraging was Lonnie Walker IV’s offense as Walker had 13 first-half points.

Walker was scoreless in three of his first four games back from a hamstring injury. Like he did in Paris against the Cavaliers, he showed his shooting touch going 3-for-7 on three-pointers but was scoreless in just seven second-half minutes.

The Nets free-throw issues reappeared as they were just 18-for-27. It reminded they entered Wednesday 25th in the league in free-throw shooting.

The Nets, however, seemed primed for a slow third quarter after the Trail Blazers went on a 16-8 run to lead 67-60. However, Dinwiddie helped wake-up the Nets with a 10-point quarter.

The loss is even more critical given the Nets’ upcoming slate. Eight of their next nine games are against teams above .500, starting with playing at the Lakers Friday.

Even worse, they’re the only team the Trail Blazers have beaten in January. The Trail Blazers are 2-7 this month. If the Nets didn’t hit rock bottom losing to this team 10 days earlier, they got closer losing to a team that’s playing for next season.

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