Playing for the first time this season without injured point guard Jeremy Lin, the Nets narrowed a six-point fourth-quarter deficit to one, but Marvin Williams hit a back-breaking corner three-pointer for the Hornets with 1:05 left and Charlotte held on for a 99-95 victory Friday night at Barclays Center.
Two foul shots by Sean Kilpatrick with 3.3 seconds left made it a one-possession game at 98-95, but the Nets couldn’t force a steal on the inbounds play and Cody Zeller wrapped it up by making the second of two foul shots with 2.5 seconds left.
The Nets (2-4) were held to 40.0 percent shooting, including 25.0 percent from three-point range (9-for-36), but they were just as tough defensively, holding the Hornets to 41.9 percent shooting. Kilpatrick had 19 points but shot only 5-for-15. Brook Lopez added 18 and Trevor Booker had 12 points and 13 rebounds. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had 11 points, eight rebounds, six assists and four steals.
Kemba Walker led the Hornets (4-1) with 30 points.
With Lin out, coach Kenny Atkinson started rookie Isaiah Whitehead at point guard, backed up by Kilpatrick. Lopez scored 10 of the Nets’ first 17 points as they took a 21-8 lead. But the game got away in the third quarter when the Nets hit a cold spell that allowed the Hornets to take control with a 23-6 run for a 66-60 lead.
“The third quarter really hurt,” Atkinson said. “We got stagnant, and the ball stopped moving.”
Asked if that’s when the Nets missed Lin the most, Atkinson said, “I want our offense to run well whoever is in. I was happy with our defense, but the third quarter killed us. That was our Achilles’ heel . . . Obviously, we miss Jeremy, but it could have happened with him in there.”
Lopez fought gamely through double- and triple-teams and had six fourth-quarter points, including a three-pointer with 2:11 left that cut the deficit to 90-89. But it was a struggle.
Asked if he expects that to continue with Lin out, Lopez said, “It’s a huge adjustment because [Lin] brings so much to the team. If it continues to happen, it’s something we’ll address, I’m sure.”