Rapid Reaction: Pacers 97, Nets 96

Gritty, but not good enough.

The Brooklyn Nets fought hard in the second half of an extremely difficult second leg of a back-to-back Saturday night in Indiana, but fell to the Pacers 97-96 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

What it means: The Nets (20-25) lost all four of their regular-season meetings against the Pacers (36-10) this season. Brooklyn has now lost three games in a row overall.

Paul Pierce (15 points, five rebounds, five steals) came up short in his attempt to tie the game with a corner 3-pointer with four seconds left. Joe Johnson was open at the top of the key, but Pierce didn’t see him, firing up an airball with Lance Stephenson contesting.

When it came down to it, Brooklyn just couldn’t come up with a critical stop or rebound when it needed to.

The Nets, who lost by 25 to the Oklahoma City Thunder Friday night, are 2-8 in the second half of back-to-back sets this season.

Deron Williams’ return to the starting lineup didn’t go well: He shot 3-for-12 from the field, missing 10 of his first 11 attempts.

Shaun Livingston stepped up for the second straight night, scoring a season-high 24 points on 10-for-18 shooting. Livingston scored eight straight points in the third, igniting his team’s comeback from an 11-point deficit.

A night after recording the fewest rebounds in a game in NBA history (17), the Nets were outrebounded 46-27 by the Pacers.

Indiana turned the ball over a season-high 24 times. Brooklyn recorded a season-high 15 steals.

Kevin Garnett, who was held scoreless for the first time since his rookie season Friday night, had 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Johnson had 16 points on 6-for-14 shooting. The crowd chanted "Not an All-Star!" at Johnson during the game.

His nemesis, Stephenson, who felt like he deserved to make it over Johnson, had 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Stephenson jawed with Brooklyn’s bench during the game.

All-Stars Roy Hibbert and Paul George each had 20 points for Indiana. David West added 17.

Dealing with injuries: The Nets were without Andrei Kirilenko (sore right calf) and Andray Blatche (bruised left hip). Their bench scored just 16 points.

Up next: The Nets are off Super Bowl Sunday and then take on the Philadelphia 76ers Monday night at Barclays Center.