CHARLOTTE - Paul Pierce couldn't explain the Brooklyn Nets' second-half defensive collapse in Monday night’s loss in New Orleans to the Pelicans.
But the Nets have played so well defensively since the start of the year that one bad half can be forgiven.
Three bad halves, with the Atlantic Division title up for grabs, can’t be forgiven. Not now. Not when there’s a chance to secure homecourt for the first playoff series.
The Nets played 40 minutes of forgettable defense and lost 116-111 in OT to the Charlotte Bobcats Wednesday night in Time Warner Cable Arena.
It was the Nets third straight OT game, a franchise record. They had little left in the tank in the final five-minute session as the Bobcats pulled it out.
The Nets (37-33 ) haven’t lost consecutive games since Jan. 31-Feb. 1. They fell two games behind the Raptors for first place. That lead could be two and one-half or one and one-half depending on the outcome of the Raptors game in Boston Wednesday night.
The Nets entered the game tops in the league in turnovers forced at 17.5 per game. They forced nine.
The Nets surrendered 58 points in the first half, allowing the Bobcats to shoot 52.4 percent from the lead. They forced just five turnovers.
Not until rookie Jorge Gutierrez was ejected with 6:41 left in regulation did the Nets start to play the defense that made them a playoff team. Gutierrez was issued a Flagrant 2 foul on Cody Zeller when he came down hard as Zeller was going up.
The Nets turned up the defense.
Deron Williams, a game-time decision because of illness, led the charge, scoring four of his team-high 29 points in the final 59 seconds and shutting down Kemba Walker as time expired in regulation to force OT at 105-105.
With seven seconds left, Walker went 1-on-1 at Williams. Williams gave nothing. Walker fumbled the ball away as the horn sounded.
But the Bobcats (35-37) had a little too much for the Nets, playing their third straight OT game.