The Brooklyn Nets turned into the New Jersey Nets during the fourth quarter on Monday night.
An inexcusable loss to an inferior opponent playing in the second half of a back-to-back without its two best players followed.
The Nets blew a 22-point lead, and the Kevin Love/Ricky Rubio-less Minnesota Timberwolves scored the final 11 points of the game to claim a stunning 107-96 victory in front of 14,017 angry witnesses who booed their $83.5 million team off its herringbone-patterned court at the $1 billion Barclays Center.
The last time the Nets blew a 22-point lead? Dec. 17, 2008, against the Utah Jazz.
Not exactly the best way to send owner Mikhail Prokhorov back to Russia.
“(The boos) were warranted,” said point guard Deron Williams, who notched his first double-double of the season (18 points and 13 assists), but was held scoreless during a final period in which the Nets were outscored 32-10 and outrebounded 19-4. “It’s a game where we’re up (22) and we should be able to put teams away and keep our distance. ... It’s definitely embarrassing given who they’re missing.”
The Nets’ regular-season opener couldn’t have gone any better. This one couldn’t have gone any worse.
Teams with playoff aspirations don’t fall apart. The Nets (1-1) should consider themselves lucky this is only Game No. 2.
“No team should outwork us,” shooting guard Joe Johnson said. “But in the fourth quarter, we just didn’t bring it.”
He’s right. Ball movement turned into isolations on offense. Stops turned into scores on defense. Stars like Williams and Johnson failed to deliver in the clutch. Meanwhile, led by Chase Budinger and Alexey Shved, the Timberwolves did.
Coach Avery Johnson wanted this particular debacle to sting more than usual -- especially with the defending champion Miami Heat looming on Wednesday night.
Making matters worse, the Nets might not have versatile defender/Mr. Intangibles Gerald Wallace (sprained left ankle) in their lineup again.
“It always stings,” D-Will said. “I think last year it just got to a point where they were kind of normal. I think it definitely stings. I think you can already see it on guys’ faces. We’ll see how we respond tomorrow at practice.
“We just gotta have a good practice tomorrow, watch film -- film doesn’t lie -- so we can see where we made our mistakes on how we get better and come out with a better 48-minute effort against Miami.
“It’s still early. Every team has 1, 2 or 3 of these a year. I guess it’s good we got it out of the way.”
They hope, anyway.
“It’s just one of those losses you want to forget,” D-Will said. “You just can’t let it linger. It (leaves) a bad taste in our mouth, but you have to shake it off and bounce back.”
Otherwise, that won’t be the last time they hear boos.
“We may have deserved them,” Joe Johnson said, “but that’s neither here nor there. We gotta look back to the drawing board.”