The Brooklyn Nets worked so hard during the regular season to get home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
And just like that, with one poor performance on Monday night, they lost it.
With a chance to go up 2-0 against the Bulls in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinals series, the Nets shot just 35.4 percent from the field, went two for 19 in the third quarter and were outplayed on both ends of the floor in a 90-82 loss to the Chicago Bulls at Barclays Center.
Consider this a missed opportunity.
“It’s tough. It’s tough,” Deron Williams, who went just one for nine from the field and finished with eight points, said. “We wanted to avoid [losing home-court advantage], but it happened.”
And now the Nets head to Chicago for Games 3 and 4 tied 1-1 instead of with a commanding 2-0 lead.
“This is what you get home-court advantage for. We’ve lost that, and now we’ve gotta go to Chicago and try to get a win,” said Joe Johnson, who shot just six for 18 from the field and missed a 3-pointer that would’ve brought the Nets within a point of the Bulls with 3:45 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Coming off a 106-89 victory in Game 1 in which they shot 55.8 percent from the field and had just eight turnovers, the Nets knew the Bulls were going to make adjustments, ratchet up the defensive intensity and play with a sense of desperation.
“I don’t think we didn’t match their urgency. I just think we didn’t play well,” Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said. “There’s some nights where you feel like you’re a step slow and your guys aren’t competing. I felt like our guys were competing, I just thought [the Bulls] played better. They executed better on both ends of the floor.
“I think we understood how important it was, what a good opportunity it was to play this game in our building, and we didn’t play well enough to win. They played better than we did.”
Despite coming out sluggish and starting zero for six from the field with four turnovers, the Nets went into the locker room trailing 47-46 at the half after C.J. Watson drained a corner 3-pointer at the buzzer.
But things unraveled -- just like they have so many times previously -- in the third quarter. Williams, Johnson and Brook Lopez combined to shoot one for 12 from the field, and the Nets were outscored 22-11 in the period as the Bulls extended to a 12-point lead heading into the fourth.
“Nothing was falling,” Williams said. “You gotta give credit to their defense for taking us out of our stuff. That was the quarter that definitely did it to us.”
The Nets nearly rallied from 14 points down but could never get closer than four.
Game 3 is Thursday night at United Center. Brooklyn won a franchise-record 23 road games during the regular season. Time to get another one.
What’s that line again? Ah yes, a series doesn’t start until the home team loses.
“It is what it is. It’s over with. I’ve been in this predicament before; it’s not the end of the world,” Reggie Evans said. “Hopefully, we can find a way to get a win on their court. It’s not impossible.”