Recap: Nets Fall to Blazers at Barclays Center
By Cory Wright
Donald Sloan nearly had a triple-double on Friday night, but his individual effort was overshadowed by another, as the Brooklyn Nets fell to the Portland Trail Blazers 116-104 at Barclays Center.
Sloan, who turned 28 on Friday, celebrated his birthday with 15 points, nine assists and nine rebounds, but a star-effort from Damian Lillard and a fourth-quarter surge from Portland proved to be the difference. Lillard scored 33 points Friday, including 14 in the fourth quarter.
“Damian was doing his thing,” said Brook Lopez, who had a team-high 25 points. “And when he’s on he’s tough to stop.”
The Nets bench turned a four-point deficit into a six-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter, the high-water mark coming on an Andrea Bargnani pull-up with 8:41 to play. From there, the tide turned in Portland’s favor, as the Trail Blazers went on a 19-2 run, taking a 105-94 lead with 4:26 remaining. Interim Head Coach Tony Brown put his starters back in with the Nets down 100-93, but the line change didn’t slow down Lillard, who hit his fifth three-pointer shortly after.
“He’s shooting three or feet behind the three-point line. I don’t think there’s much you can do about that,” said Joe Johnson.
Johnson led the Nets with three, three-pointers, en route to a 15-point night. Johnson hit all three on consecutive possessions in the third quarter, part of an earlier Nets rally. The Nets shot 8-of-19 (42.1%) from beyond the arc, but only hit one in the fourth quarter, while the Blazers drained five.
“Down the stretch we struggled defending,” Brown said. “In the first half we had some good minutes from our starters, that first unit had a little rhythm.”
All five of Brooklyn’s starters (Lopez, Johnson, Sloan, Thaddeus Young and Wayne Ellington) finished with plus-ratings on Friday. Lopez continued to feast on the Trail Blazers – he holds the Nets all-time highest ppg vs. Portland at 22.9 – dropping the team-high 25. He was a force in the paint, scoring down low, getting to the stripe 10 times and coming up with a highlight-reel block on Lillard in the third quarter.
“I went for it. It could have gone poorly or it could have gone well,” Lopez said of the block. “You always have to go for it.”
Lillard had support from his Blazers’ teammates, as Allen Crabbe also hurt the Nets from deep Friday, dropping 5-of-6 while scoring 19 points off the bench. Lillard and Crabbe combined for 10 of Portland’s 15 threes.
“It was a tough night for us to try and get those guys under control,” Brown said. Former-Net Mason Plumlee was limited to seven points and three boards in his return to Brooklyn.
The loss tipped off Brooklyn’s eighth back-to-back set of the season. The Nets travel to Atlanta to take on the Hawks on Saturday night. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m.