INDIANA - By Lenn Robbins – It’s disconcerting, if not flat out scary, how fleeting success and confidence can be in the NBA.
The Nets were riding high at the start of January, winning 10 of 11 games, a streak that started with a two-point triumph in Oklahoma City on Jan. 2. But after Friday night’s 120-95 blowout loss to the Thunder in Barclays Center, the Nets suddenly find themselves in need of a hug, not to mention a win.
The loss was Brooklyn’s second straight. They threw away Monday night’s game against Toronto, losing 104-103 when Deron Williams’ errant inbounds pass was stolen, leading to the Raptors’ winning basket with six seconds left.
After that stinging one-point loss, the Nets were never in Friday night’s game, trailing, 30-16, after the first quarter, and falling behind by as much as 32 points in the third quarter.
“It looked like they were moving at a faster pace,’’ said guard Shaun Livingston, who led the Nets with 16 points. “And they sustained it. I think we tried to take the run, take the hits. But they sustained the run. They’re playing at a high level.’’
Those two losses boarded the team plane along with the Nets late Friday night for a flight to Indiana, where they will play the Pacers Saturday night. The Pacers already have beaten the Nets three times this season.
Indiana they’re the cream of the crop right now so it will be a measuring stick of where we are,’’ said forward Paul Pierce. “Unfortunately we’re a little banged up.’’
“No Andrei Kirilenko. Maybe won’t have Andray Blatche. But that doesn’t give us an excuse not to go out there and fight and try to get a split in this back to back.’’
Kirilenko missed the Oklahoma City game with a sore right calf. Blatche got hit in the left hip in the first half of the Thunder game. He tried to return in the second half but was clearly hampered.
He said he would accompany the team to Indiana, get treatment, and hopefully be ready to go. Although the injury doesn’t appear to be serious, it might be a push to think he’ll play against the Pacers.
At least one of the Pacers, guard Lance Stephenson of Brooklyn, will be looking to send the Nets and NBA coaches a message. Stephenson is mad he did not get an All-Star game invitation. Brooklyn’s Joe Johnson did.
"I'm mad,’’ Stephenson told reporters in Indiana. “I feel like I had my breakout year last year. I showed I can play with anyone on the floor and I felt like this year, I brought a little bit more to my game.’’
Stephenson’s turn as the Nets biggest problem will have to wait.
The Nets were dazzled by the performance turned in by Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant. Durant hit 10 of his first 11 shots and finished with 26 in three quarters.
Durant’s streak of 12 straight games with more than 30 points ended only because he didn’t play in the fourth quarter. He finished 10-of-12 from the field, including 3-of-3 on 3’s and 3-of-3 from the line.
Durant is the most unstoppable force in the league right now. The last time a player put together a streak like this was 2003 when Tracy McGrady scored more than 30 in 14 games.
The Nets (20-24) were awful on defense. Serge Ibaka hit all 12 of his shots from the field. The Thunder (38-10), won their 10th straight, shooting 63.6-percent, an inexcusable number for the Nets.
The Nets had five players in double figures, but that’s window dressing. They were outrebounded, 41-17, the fewest rebounds in NBA history, and got outscored, 58-30, on points in the paint.
The Nets need to get their swagger back. They had closed to within one and one-half games of the Raptors for first place in the Atlantic Division but find themselves four games back after Toronto won in Denver and the Nets lost.
“We have to regroup,’’ said Livingston. “The sign of a better team, a good team, is to come out the next game, make sure we don’t make the same mistakes.’’