The Brooklyn Nets showed some fight in Sunday’s 104-96 loss to the Charlotte Hornets at Barclays Center.
Twice they fought back from double-digit deficits to pull within four points – including late in the fourth quarter – but twice they let it slip away against a Hornets team that has won five straight.
“When we started to get aggressive on defense, things started to change for us,” Interim Head Coach Tony Brown said. “That got us back in the ball game in the second half, but offensively we weren’t really in sync tonight, the pace wasn’t what we would like. Charlotte’s pace was a lot better than ours. We just didn’t make enough plays on offense to get back in the game and take the lead.”
Joe Johnson had a team-high 17 points Sunday, while Brook Lopez’s double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) was part of a memorable game that saw him hit his first three pointer of the season – a buzzer beater – and throw down a couple of big slams.
However it wasn’t enough to combat Kemba Walker’s 28 points and a hot Hornets team that was very aggressive from range, hitting 10-of-27 from deep.
“It was a tough loss,” Johnson said. “I thought we had some stretches where we played great basketball, but we also had stretches where we didn’t play so great. A lot of turnovers, we gave them a lot of easy fast-break points. It’s tough to win like that.”
The Nets actually had more fast-break points (9-8) and dominated in the paint to the tune of a 52-32 advantage. The game was lost from the field, where the Nets shot 43% to Charlotte’s 50, and from range, as the Nets went 5-of-22 from beyond the arc.
“Their pressure made it tough to get into some of our sets,” Brown said. “Any time we face some solid defense where they pressure passes, they pressure wing catches, pressure post up catch, we seem to get a little sluggish. That’s one of the areas we must continue to work at.”
Still, the Nets – who trailed by 16 before Lopez’s buzzer beater at the end of the third – were only down four points when Markel Brown set Lopez up for an alley oop with 4:42 to play. Walker – who scored 19 of his 28 points in the second half – immediately responded with a driving finger roll.
Down six, the Nets committed two turnovers before Nicolas Batum (16 points, 8 assists) hit a pair of free throws, widening the gap to eight. After a pair of misses – Johnson from deep, Markel Brown from mid-range – Walker sealed it, hitting a three with 1:46 to play.
“He’s quick, he has a good mid-range game,” Lopez said of Walker. “He was in the pick-and-roll a lot. It was my responsibility and I didn’t do a great job.”
Lopez did have a game-high two blocks, including a big rejection on Jeremy Lin in the second quarter and a season-high tying (and Nets leading) six assists.
The Hornets got sizable contributions from their bench Sunday, as Al Jefferson scored 18 points (9-of-13) and 7 boards, while Lin added 11 points, albeit on 3-of-10 shooting. Markel Brown was the Nets’ best reserve player, scoring 12 points off the bench.
Thaddeus Young had 14 points and 8 rebounds Sunday, while Wayne Ellington dropped 13.
With Ringling Brothers circus coming to Barclays the Nets embark on a season-high nine-game road trip beginning on Tuesday night in Portland. Tipoff is at 10 p.m. eastern.