Maybe the only thing the Nets had going for them coming into tonight's game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse was that last night's debacle against the Thunder let them keep key players' minutes down. Other than that, everything - injuries (Kirilenko, Blatche), opponent (Pacers 22-2 at home), back-to-back (again) and an epic lack of rebounding (an NBA record low 17 against the Thunder) - pointed to another Nets loss in Indianapolis.
So when Shaun Livingston swished his 24th point with 5:10 left in the game - bringing the Nets to within a deuce of the East frontrunners - it looked as if the Pacers' expected knockout run would never come and the game would remain the dogfight it had been all night.
The next possession, however, was a full minute long and seemed to halt the momentum the Nets had built. It featured three Pacers' offensive rebounds, two bad bounces out of bounds off of Nets' players and two Nets fouls before culminating in a pair of free throws by Lance Stephenson (14 points, 7 rebounds, hindered by early foul trouble).
But after falling down by five, that momentum was gifted back to them by Indiana coach Frank Vogel, who picked up an ill-advised technical foul on a blocking call that didn't seem to merit such a strong reaction. Deron Williams (2-11, 10 points, 6 assists) calmly buried all three foul shots, and the Nets were back in business.
After a patented late three by All-Star Joe Johnson (6-14, 16 points) set up a possession where the Nets could tie the game with a three, but Paul Pierce (3-9, 15 points, 6 steals) hoisted a shot from the left corner that sailed way off the mark and effectively ended the Nets' chance at victory.
The Nets were out-rebounded 46-27, outscored at the foul line by 11 points and shot only 44%. However, they were able to keep the game close. They hounded Paul George - one of the NBA's best players this season - holding him to 20 points on only 7 FG. They knew coming into the game that they didn't have the personnel to stop Roy Hibbert, but while he did score 20 points, he failed to make up for George and Stephenson's below average offensive games. The Nets also forced an Indiana season-high 24 turnovers and held the home side to only 3-15 from beyond the three-point arc.
Williams admitted his confidence is not high. "It's not my highest. It's been tough, being in and out of lineups, missing two weeks here and there."
The loss was the Nets' third straight after a hot start to 2014, but the schedule gets a little kinder on Monday bringing a home date with the Philadelphia 76ers.
- Box Score - NBA.com
- Post Moves (Video) - NBA.com
- Block From Behind (Video) - NBA.com
- Really Tall Point Guard (Video) - NBA.com
- Post Game Plus: Nets fall to Pacers, 97-96 (Video) - YES Network
- Kidd on Nets' close loss to Pacers (Video) - YES Network
- Garnett reacts after loss to Indiana (Video) - YES Network
- Johnson on Nets' road defeat to Pacers (Video) - YES Network
- FIRST-HALF HIGHLIGHTS: Kevin Garnett With Big Swat, Slam (Video) - The Brooklyn Game
- FUNNY: Lance Stephenson dunks on a referee! (Video) - The Brooklyn Game
- George, Hibbert help Pacers hold off Nets 97-96 - Andy Proffet - AP
- Deron Williams’s Return to Starting Role Isn’t Enough to Lift Nets - Andrew Keh - New York Times
- Rapid Reaction: Pacers 97, Nets 96 - Mike Mazzeo - ESPN New York
- Rebounding woes get Nets bounced in Indy - Mike Mazzeo - ESPN New York
- Nets put up a battle but fall to Pacers, 97-96 - Andy Vasquez - The Record
- Nets hang tough, but fall to Pacers - Tim Bontemps - New York Post
- Deron Williams ‘starts’ on wrong foot - Tim Bontemps - New York Post
- Nets rewind: Durant’s dominance is breathtaking - Tim Bontemps - New York Post
- Nets edged by Pacers as Deron Williams struggles in return to starting lineup - Stefan Bondy - New York Daily News
- Nets get beaten on boards again in narrow loss to Pacers - Rod Boone - Newsday
- Deron Williams rejoins Nets' starting lineup - Rod Boone - Newsday
- Final Score: Pacers 97, Nets 96 - John Paolantonio - SNY Nets
- Time Runs Out On Brooklyn: Pacers 97, Nets 96 (GAME GRADES) - Devin Kharpertian - The Brooklyn Game
- Luis Scola seals Pacers’ win over Nets with inbound pass off the back of Paul Pierce (Video) - Kurt Helin - NBC Sports
- Lance Stephenson-Joe Johnson pairing spices game - Candace Buckner - Indianapolis Star
- Larry Bird defends the signing of Andrew Bynum - Candace Buckner - Indianapolis Star
- Reaction to Indiana Pacers signing Andrew Bynum - Jordan Heck - Indianapolis Star
- Pacers Grinding Through the Dog Days of NBA Winter - Manny Randhawa - Indiana Pacers