Nets collapse, fall behind in playoff race

This was one of those inexcusable losses -- the type that angers both the players who played in the game and the fans who watched it.

The Brooklyn Nets were up 22 on the New Orleans Pelicans with 10:02 remaining in the third quarter Monday night.

But by the time the game was over, the scoreboard read Pelicans 109, Nets 104 in overtime.

Talk about a collapse.

It was the Nets' largest blown lead in a loss since Nov. 5, 2012, against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

And so Brooklyn (37-32), which looked like it had its fifth consecutive win all but wrapped up, fell two games back in both the Atlantic Division standings and the race for the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, which guarantees home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

“You saw everybody was really pissed off about letting this game go, so they care,” Paul Pierce told reporters in New Orleans. “That’s important, and I know we’ll bounce back.”

“It’s very disappointing. It’s very unlike us,” Joe Johnson said. “Especially coming off of a good game last night, this would’ve validated it, but we came up short, so we’ve just gotta put it behind us and move forward.”

The Nets, playing their second overtime game in as many nights without Kevin Garnett (back) and Andrei Kirilenko (ankle), appeared as though they ran out of gas. They shot just 30.4 percent from the field in the second half and overtime, connecting on only four of their 23 attempts from 3-point range.

“We’re short-handed, but there’s no excuses,” said Nets coach Jason Kidd, whose team also lost Marcus Thornton at halftime due to a bruised lower back. “We had an opportunity to win a game on the road. It went into overtime, and we just couldn’t get it done.”

The Nets were unable to stop Tyreke Evans (33 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists) from penetrating, and Anthony Davis (24 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks) had his way on the interior.

“We didn’t play team defense. We didn’t help each other,” Kidd said.

The Nets ended up hoisting up a franchise-record 40 3-pointers. They made only 10. Overall, they shot 36.7 percent from the field.

“We may have settled a bit,” said Johnson, who went 1-for-8 from downtown. “I may have settled. But that’s not what lost us the game. We were up 20 a couple times. I don’t know if we just got complacent or we just got bored, but it hurt us.”

The Pelicans got back in the game with a 17-1 run in the third to cut a 66-44 deficit to 67-61. The Nets ended up having to score the final five points of regulation just to force OT.

The Pelicans then hit three 3-pointers in the extra session -- two by former Net Anthony Morrow -- while the Nets went 0-for-6 from beyond the arc.

Pierce finished with 24 points, while Deron Williams added 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

If the Nets finish with the No. 5 seed in the East, they might end up looking back at this collapse as one of the biggest reasons why.

But all they can do right now is look forward, hoping that this one was just an anomaly -- as bad as it was.