The accounting of the Nets’ debacle of a third quarter against the Nuggets tells the whole story.
The Nets missed 15 of 17 shots coming out of halftime. Denver had a 25-2 run over one span of 6:06. The Nuggets at one point made 10 straight shots, the last three of them three-pointers.
Things went about as bad as imaginable in the quarter in the Nets’ 124-111 defeat before 14,854 at Barclays Center. Denver opened it with a 34-6 burst and ended up outscoring the Nets, 40-21, in the frame. The Nets’ first loss at home this season leaves them at 3-4 overall.
“You can’t give up 40 points in one quarter,” Joe Harris said. “They got comfortable, came off with a little more energy and that was the game right there. There was a big point differential and any time you give up 40 points in a quarter . . . it’s tough to come back from that.”
“They have a lot of talent, a lot of talented players, and they made a run,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “I think we called a couple timeouts to try to get it back but we just never responded and then we kind of wilted. Obviously we needed better leadership at that time.”
The leadership void might have been the result of injuries and a reduced rotation. The Nets were without second-leading scorer DeMarre Carroll, who has a sore right ankle, and major three-point threat Quincy Acy, who has a left groin strain. Their absence wasn’t entirely noticeable during the first half, when the Nets built a lead that got as big as 14 points before going to halftime up 63-60.
The Nets had shot 51 percent for the half, including 8-for-14 on three-pointers. They’d cleaned up the poor rebounding that hurt them in a blowout loss to the Knicks on Friday and were plus-13 on the glass.
They were a completely different team coming back out of the locker room. The Nets let Denver shoot 59 percent in the third quarter and committed four costly turnovers.
“Just not ready to play for some reason,” Atkinson said. “Taking care of the ball is important. Shot selection is huge. I thought we settled. We started playing too much one-on-one – you know that’s not our game. Then they got out out, got in transition, got some good looks.”
Said D’Angelo Russell, “So when you turn the ball over or struggle to get good offense, other teams will make something happen out of that. They’re a great offensive team. They made something happen.”
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson said, “I put the blame on us.”
Asked about where the leadership needs to come from in that moment, Atkinson conceded that “DeMarre’s a big part of it.” Still he believed it doesn’t come down to just one injured player.
“I think we have people who have been here — Caris [LeVert] and even D’Angelo. That’s part of the growth process,” he added. “We don’t look at leadership as you have to be 35. You can be a leader when you’re 22 or 24.”
Spencer Dinwiddie had 22 points, Hollis-Jefferson had 18 points and Harris had 16 points for the Nets. Jamal Murray’s 26 points and Nikola Jokic’s 21 points and 14 rebounds paced Denver.
The 25-2 run ended with two three-pointers by Wilson Chandler and then one by Will Barton and made the score 94-69 with 3:19 left in the quarter. The Nets got within 106-95 on a Hollis-Jefferson layup where he was fouled with 8:49 left in the game. He missed the free throw and, after a timeout, Denver’s Gary Harris made a three-pointer on the ensuing possession.
Said Russell, “We started playing harder but it was too late.”