Roy Hibbert and the Pacers stop a late push by Brook Lopez, who tallied 16 points, and the Nets.
The Nets didn’t make it easy for the NBA’s best Saturday night, but ultimately fell, 96-91, in a crushing home loss to the undefeated Indiana Pacers to stay beneath the .500 mark.
The Nets (2-4) cut a 10-point Pacers (7-0) lead to three with 2:51 to play in regulation, but a bad foul by Deron Williams handed two points to George Hill from the foul line, followed by a huge two-point fade away by Paul George – who led all scorers with 24 points – to extend the lead back to seven. The Nets came right back with back-to-back buckets by Brook Lopez and Williams to bring to within three with 1:06 left. The Pacers regained possession with just over 30 seconds to play and a 94-91 lead, but a key turnover by George handed the ball back to the Nets with 16.5 remaining. Joe Johnson got a great look at a would-be game-tying three from the wing, but came up empty. Two free throws by David West sealed it for Indiana, a team off to their best start in franchise history.
Robert Sabo/New York Daily News
Paul Pierce complains about a foul call and gets a technical too.
Both teams finished with four players in double figures, with Williams and Johnson leading the way for the Nets with 17 apiece.
Despite entering Saturday with an unblemished record, the Pacers seemed ready for the Nets best.
“Just look at the roster, its really that simple,” first-year Pacer and former Knick Chris Copeland said. “They’re a deep team, very experienced, (and) they all know how the play this game. They know how to score, they know how to defend and they know how to win. We have guys that can play as well and I think it’s going to be a hard fought game tonight.”
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Deron Williams’ 17 points and 10 assists aren’t enough to stop Brooklyn from earning its first home loss.
Things seemed to unravel early for the Nets starters after Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce each picked up their second team fouls with 6:56 to play in the first quarter, followed by a Pierce technical as he walked toward the bench in disgust. The Pacers then led 17-8 after George converted three straight free throws. But 16 first-half bench points play helped guide the Nets to a 46-44 lead at the break, highlighted by big minutes from Mason Plumlee, Shaun Livingston and Alan Anderson.
Hibbert led all scorers with 10 points at the half, but solid defense from Lopez caused the 7-footer to inflict most of his damage from the outside rather than near the rim.
The Pacers opened the second half on a 15-5 run and quickly led by eight with 7:36 to play in the third. West was a nightmare for the Nets D, making midrange jumpers look like layups. That eight-point lead would have held at the end of three if not for a Johnson three-pointer at the buzzer to bring the Nets within five, 72-67.
During the preseason, Kidd said Garnett “probably” wouldn’t see minutes in any back-to-back games this season. Kidd made an exception in the team’s first back-to-back game of the season on Saturday, however, handing Garnett over 26 minutes against Indiana. It seemed as good a time as any to make an exception, given three off days until the team’s next game.
According to Kidd, F Andrei Kirilenko sat out against Indiana due to back spasms suffered Saturday morning. Kirilenko missed five preseason games and the season opener with the same issue and was limited to just 12:47 of playing time on Friday against Washington.