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In a meeting of former Duke players, Pelicans guard Austin Rivers tries to penetrate past Nets center Mason Plumlee

Pelicans.com postgame: Nets 93, Pelicans 81

By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer

BROOKLYN – It wasn’t the best omen Sunday when the New Orleans Pelicans came out of their locker room as cold as the Northeast in February, missing their first seven shots. Before fans had settled into their seats at Barclays Center, the Brooklyn Nets had built an 11-0 lead and the Pelicans were forced to call a timeout.

Although New Orleans played much better as Sunday’s game progressed, it ultimately couldn’t overcome a frigid offensive start that featured a season-low 28 first-half points. The Pelicans (22-28) managed just 14 points in each of the first two quarters, trailing 51-28 at halftime. Brooklyn (23-26) built a lead of as many as 27, before New Orleans put together an extended quality stretch that pulled it to within seven. The Nets then regained their double-digit advantage in the final period, en route to a relatively comfortable margin of victory.

Even with the much-improved performance in the second half, the Pelicans shot just 36.1 percent. They also were hampered greatly by a 15-for-27 (55.6 percent) outing at the foul line. Brooklyn also misfired on a dozen free throws, while committing a total of 22 turnovers, but still prevailed.

“It was a tough first half, obviously,” said Pelicans Coach Monty Williams, whose team will play a back-to-back at Toronto on Monday. “A lot of guys missed a lot of open shots tonight. You know you played poorly when the opposing team has 22 turnovers, and they also missed 12 free throws, and we still couldn’t make up the difference. We just didn’t play well. We’ve got to be a lot better tomorrow.”

Trailing 51-28 at halftime, New Orleans went on an extended 29-13 run to pull within 64-57 at 2:07 of the third quarter. Anthony Davis (24 points, nine rebounds) and Brian Roberts (12 points, four assists) were instrumental in the Pelicans holding a 32-20 edge in the third quarter, tallying 10 points apiece. Luke Babbitt also helped spark the rally, draining three three-pointers, all after the first quarter.

“It felt like we were there,” Williams said of being within striking distance.

New Orleans couldn’t cap the comeback in the fourth quarter, however, reverting back to its cold shooting ways from earlier in the night. The Pelicans went just 6-for-19 in the final period, a 31.6 percent clip.

“You expend all that energy,” Williams said of his team’s effort to threaten the lead after being down by 27. “You’ve got to be almost perfect to beat a veteran team like that (to finish a huge comeback).”

Playing again without key players Ryan Anderson, Jrue Holiday and Jason Smith, the Pelicans were also missing sixth man catalyst Tyreke Evans, who Williams said did not play due to an internal team reason. New Orleans had to compensate for missing four of its six leading scorers in 2013-14, but had been playing well lately, with a 7-3 record in the previous 10 games. The Pelicans were coming off a 3-1 homestand that included victories over quality opponentsw Chicago, Atlanta and Minnesota.

“I know we’re going to have games like this, just because of the makeup of our team,” Williams said, referring to being significantly short-handed. “I was proud that we competed in the second half, didn’t give in. We just couldn’t make any shots when we needed to. We just didn’t run our offense with any kind of zeal (early in Sunday’s game), like we’ve been running it at home. Those are things we’ve been talking about for weeks. We’ve been pretty good at (them) for the past week and a half; we just weren’t great at them tonight.”