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Ongoing Issues crop up in Nets' loss to Mavericks

Deron Williams of the Nets goes to the

Deron Williams of the Nets goes to the hoop against Darren Collison of the Dallas Mavericks. (March 1, 2013) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Given the NBA's occasional resemblance to a health care system -- injury lists, the preventive medicine of limited playing time, psychological considerations for sometimes insecure players -- Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo's first order of business lately has been something along the lines of the doctor's Hippocratic oath.

Do no harm.

In Friday night's 98-90 loss to the Dallas Mavericks at Barclays Center, it could be argued that the greater Nets pain was inflicted by the Dallas trio of All-Star Dirk Nowitzki (20), former Net Vince Carter (20) and free-agent signee O.J. Mayo (17), who totaled 57 points.

Plus, Carlesimo identified an anemia against Dallas that was troubling. "We were playing like we were running in sand," he said. "Our defensive energy was lacking all night, and we let them get from 10 [ahead] to 20 in a short time. You get down 20, you've dug way too big a hole."

Even before the game got out of hand late in the third period, when Dallas embarked on a 17-2 surge to suddenly form a 20-point cushion at 83-63, there were manifestations of the Nets' recently delicate well-being in evidence.

They rallied to within four at 94-90 in the final minute, but the chase from behind had worn them out.

"We put ourselves in a bad position," center Brook Lopez said. "There was no energy on the floor, no energy on the bench."

And these familiar issues remained for a team that is 34-25:

Attention to shooting guard Joe Johnson's bad left heel. After missing the previous three games, leaving his 17.0-point scoring average sitting in the wings, Johnson's return to the lineup was "significant," Carlesimo said. But worried about monitoring Johnson's minutes to avoid inflaming the heel injury and because the Nets play again Saturday night in Chicago, Carlesimo gave Johnson a total of 30 minutes, during which he produced 11 points and six assists.

Point guard Deron Williams' chronically painful ankles. Cortisone shots and the mysterious platelet-rich plasma treatment have helped after Williams said he had been feeling his ankles wear down throughout games until he "just had no lift" in the fourth periods. Friday night, he again started strongly with 10 first-period points but faded for a while before he contributed two slashing layups late in the fourth during the Nets' vain attempt to catch up.

He finished with a game-high 24 points but also committed a game-high seven turnovers.

Mental comfort of Johnson and Williams, both accustomed to having the ball in their hands a lot, as they work through their first season as teammates.

Possible hurt feelings. Carlesimo's admission that his rotation of players off the bench, and how that impacts minutes afforded some starters, has "been unsettled all year,'' he said. "Frankly, our players have been very good, considering . . . We have really struggled to settle on not just the order of the rotation but when the rotation occurs."

In particular, there was Carlesimo's recent decision to sit Lopez, his leading scorer, throughout the fourth quarter in three of four games. Carlesimo since reversed his field with public apologies and Friday night kept Lopez on the floor for 33 minutes, including most of the fourth quarter.

Lopez offered 19 points, nine rebounds and plenty of effort, once flinging his 7-foot, 265-pound body after a loose ball in the stands, almost crashing into an infant barely the size of Lopez's size-20 shoe.

Feelings of rejection. If Williams' decision to sequester himself in Brooklyn was in any way painful to his native Dallas on the free-agent market last summer, one certainly "couldn't overstate," Carlesimo said, the importance of the Nets keeping him with a five-year, $98-million deal.

But Carlesimo added that he "couldn't overstate how unimportant that backdrop" was to Friday night's game.

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