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Paul Pierce ejected in Nets' blow out loss to the Pacers, 103-86

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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

BROOKLYN - The post-Brook Lopez era began with the Nets playing against the top-rated defense in the NBA and, arguably, the best team in the Eastern Conference, the Indiana Pacers.

In the end, the Nets looked lackluster, losing by 17. The effort was so bad that for the first time, Jason Kidd called out his team of veterans.

"I think it’s getting really close to just accepting losing," the coach said, his tie askew, his face taut. "We kind of get comfortable with losing and we have to make a stand with that because when things get tough, do we give in? Most of the time right now we do."

Fans booed Deron Williams at the end, following a nine-point, eight-assist game which ended with him limping.

"I need to play better. I need to be more aggressive for us to have a chance -- especially with Brook [Lopez] going down, that’s what I talked about is stepping up," Williams said after the game. "Tonight was just a bad game for me, throwing the ball all over the place, couldn’t hit a shot. It took my aggressiveness away, and I think I played into what they were trying to do."

At least D-Will stuck around to talk with the media.

The team's two purported leaders, Paul Pierce, who'd been ejected after a flagrant foul, and Kevin Garnett didn't , once again deciding to separate themselves from teammates and exiting the locker room before the media arrived.  In a series of tweets early this morning, local and national writers blasted both players' lack of leadership and professionalism ... and that Kidd had enabled them.

David West, the Pacers forward, even had a comment. After the game, West tweeted out this less-than-subtle message...

Before the game, there was some good news, Jason Terry returned to the lineup for the Nets for the first time since November 20. Even in the first quarter, the Nets held their own before collapsing in the third ... again

Kidd opted to have Pierce come off the bench with Andray Blatche and the rest of the second unit, and give  Mirza Teletovic his third start of the season.

Teletovic looked good early, getting aggressive in attacking the rim and working the baseline, something we're not used to seeing from him -- he's first and foremost a spot shooter. Kevin Garnett got into early foul trouble, picking up two in the first four-plus minutes, which forced Kidd to bring in Blatche a little early than he would have liked.

Brooklyn was pushing the ball early. In fact, they had six fastbreak points in the first five minutes of the game. That may not seem like much, but considering they had just four total fastbreak points the last time these two teams met in early November, it was a nice early adjustment by the Lopez-less Nets.

Late in the first, Paul George really got going. The Nets were struggling with his athleticism. It certainly didn't help, either, that the Nets went absolutely ice cold from the floor in the final five-plus minutes of the first quarter. What once was an active, controlled offense turned into an offense that finished the first quarter having gone 7-of-21 from the floor. After one, the Pacers led 19-17.

Pierce went cold from the floor, missing his first six shot attempts. He finished the first half with zero points. This after having shot 81 percent from the floor in his previous two games.

Mason Plumlee gave the Nets some nice energy off the bench, but still, they continued to miss easy buckets and struggled to put any type of run together. The defense was improved, but the offense struggled against the top-ranked defense. Something that was certainly expected, to some extent, but not necessarily to the point where they would shoot 35 percent from the floor in the first half.

Lance Stephenson, noted Brooklyn native, gave the Nets a lot of fits on the offensive side of the ball. They couldn't keep up with him, defensively, as Stephenson scored 14 points and dished five assists in the first half.

At halftime, the Nets trailed the Pacers, 45-39.

The Pacers started off the third quarter on an 15-4 run, with Stephenson and George once again leading the way. And just like that, they trailed early in the third, 60-43. Welcome back, third quarter woes.

Things didn't go well for Pierce at all in this one, as he was ejected from the game with four minutes remaining in the third quarter with zero points on 0-of-7 shooting, after he clotheslined George Hill on a fast break attempt. Talk about being a net-negative: Pierce left the game without scoring, his first zero since 1999, his rookie year.

It all continued to go south from there, with the Pacers taking a 71-47 lead and essentially putting this one away in the third once Pierce was ejected.

All that was left was for Terry to get some burn, with the Pacers blowing the Nets out, it was a chance for JET to actually get some run. He finished with 11 points in 15 minutes.

Overall, the Nets hung in with the Pacers early, showing some nice effort on defense, but never really getting into much of an offensive rhythm. They missed easy shots, lost their composure at times and couldn't put together a run in the second half. In the end. They looked beaten and they were.

Final score: Pacers 103, Nets 86.

Next up, a Christmas Day matchup with the Chicago Bulls.

For more on the Pacers, see: Indy Cornrows