Nets show fight, can't keep Pace
by Jason Schott
The Nets had a nice bounce-back performance after Friday night's rout, but they fell short in Indiana, losing to the Pacers 97-96 on Saturday night. After winning 10 of 11 games to open 2014, they have now lost three straight.
Andray Blatche and Andrei Kirilenko were out of action for the Nets on Saturday night, so Head Coach Jason Kidd had to rely on Reggie Evans, Mason Plumlee, and Jason Terry to fill the void. The Nets and Pacers played a tight first half, and it was 46-45 Indiana at halftime.
The Pacers opened the third on a 12-2 run capped by a David West three-pointer to make it 58-47. The Nets got back into it, led by Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston, and got back to within two, at 72-70, at the end of the third.
The Nets tied the game at 76 a couple minutes into the fourth on Shaun Livingston free throws. The Pacers responded with a 7-0 run that the Nets never really recovered from because they had to play catch-up the rest of the game. The Nets got back to within two, at 85-83 on a Livingston jumper with 5:09 left.
The Pacers led by five in the final minute, but the Nets had one last chance. Joe Johnson hit a clutch three (what else?) with eight seconds left to cut the Pacers' lead to a point, at 94-93. David West hit a couple of free throws to make it 96-93, and the Nets had 7.6 seconds to tie it. The ball went to Paul Pierce and he ran along the baseline to the corner and he hoisted a three immediately despite having so much time. Pierce was well guarded, and his shot was not close, clanging off the back rim.
West went back to the line and hit one of two free throws to make it a four-point game with four seconds left, so the Nets needed a miracle. Deron Williams hit a three with 0.4 seconds to cut it a point, at 97-96, and that was how it ended.
All five Nets starters , which included Deron Williams, scored in double figures. Livingston led the way with 24 points (10-for-18 FG), followed by Johnson with 16 (6-14 FG, 2-5 on 3-pt), Pierce with 15, Williams with 13 on an abysmal 3-for-12 shooting, and Kevin Garnett had 12 a night after being held scoreless.
The Pacers improve their Eastern Conference-best record to 36-10, and they were led by Paul George and Roy Hibbert with 20 points each. Just like with Brooklyn, all five of their starters had double figures, with David West scoring 17, Lance Stephenson had 14, and George Hill had 10.