The Brooklyn Nets dropped to 1-3 after falling to the Indiana Pacers 108-118 on Wednesday night.
Nailbiting suspense defined the first three games of the season, but there was no such drama on Wednesday night. Instead, sloppy basketball, poor free-throw shooting, and a silent second unit derailed what should have been a competitive contest.
Brooklyn kept within striking distance in the first half and even held a seven-point lead midway through the second quarter. However, the second half was a different story altogether.
The two Eastern Conference teams exchanged leads seven times in the third quarter alone, but once Indiana pulled ahead 77-74, they never looked back. It was all Pacers from that point, and Brookly completely crumbled down the stretch.
The Nets leaned heavily on isolation sets for Kyrie Irving, Caris LeVert, and Spencer Dinwiddie, and it resulted in stagnant ball movement and plenty of standing around. Although Kyrie strung together 28 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists on his way to another offensive masterpiece, the rest of the three-guard tandem struggled to get anything going.
LeVert and Dinwiddie combined for 35 points on 13-of-35 shooting and tied for the team lead in turnovers with four apiece. Neither guard took care of the ball, and the Pacers made Brooklyn pay for their carelessness on both ends of the floor.
Indiana converted 19 Nets turnovers into 28 points, and atrocious defense only made it easier for the Pacers to pile on the points. Brooklyn got caught on screens, failed to close out on shooters, and continued their trend of miscommunication.
Brooklyn couldn’t contain the Pacers, and their starters had an absolute field day against the Nets’ dysfunctional defense. Domantas Sabonis dominated the low block, Malcolm Brogdon methodically orchestrated the offense, Jeremy Lamb caught fire from beyond the arc, and T.J. Warren got his fill of midrange buckets.
By the end of the night, Indiana’s starting five racked up 95 points, and if not for Myles Turner spraining his right ankle in the first quarter, they likely would have eclipsed the century mark. That may be speculative, but there’s nothing hypothetical about just how poorly Brooklyn performed against a team missing its best player.
I wish I could say this was a one-off performance. Unfortunately, it was more of the same for the Nets. They now rank 28th in turnovers per game and free throw percentage, 27th in opponent points per game, and dead last in opponent three-point percentage.
Head Coach Kenny Atkinson wasn’t panicked, and Nets fans shouldn’t be either. After all, we’re four games into a season in which Kevin Durant isn’t expected to play a single game for the franchise.
This is a year to develop chemistry and gain valuable experience. And although it doesn’t always feel like it, taking lessons from losses is the first step in learning how to win.
Up next for the Nets is another tough home game against James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and the Houston Rockets. Brooklyn will look to avoid a third straight loss and their worst start since 2015-2016.