The Nets (3-10), who have lost five straight games, led by seven points at the break but were outscored by 19 in the third quarter -- 34-15 -- and eventually booed off their home court by 17,732 angry fans at the Barclays Center.
“I think everybody here is embarrassed,” said power forward Kevin Garnett, who went 2-for-9 from the field in 23 minutes and is shooting 34.9 percent from the field this season. “You definitely don’t want [to be booed] at home. Like I’ve been saying, we’re going to continue to work to try to change this as best we can.”
The Nets fell to 0-10 on the season when losing the third. In those 10 losses, they have been outscored by 96 points in the quarter.
“I have no clue [why that’s been happening],” said shooting guard Joe Johnson, who poured in a season-high 34 points while making a career-high eight 3-pointers. “It’s been repetitive, and it’s kind of been a tale of our season. The third quarter, it doesn’t matter if we’re up or down, we get no lift.”
“Right now, the third quarters have really been our Achilles’ heel,” added small forward Paul Pierce, who went 5-for-13 from the field and is shooting 27.7 percent in his past four games. “We gotta do a better job coming out after halftime and being ready and playing with more energy and doing the things necessary to avoid that.”
The Nets, who are decimated by injury, were once again without point guard Deron Williams (ankle), center Brook Lopez (ankle), reserve forward Andrei Kirilenko (back) and reserve guard Jason Terry (knee). Williams has missed four of the past five games, while Lopez has missed five straight and Kirilenko has missed eight straight.
“It’s a tough situation when your two stars and four of your top eight players are out,” Pierce said. “You're put in different roles across the board, not only me and Kevin, but everybody else. ... Our identity changes. But we have to be better, end of story.”
The Nets were so bad in the third that first-year coach Jason Kidd elected to have seldom-used reserves Tornike Shengelia, Tyshawn Taylor and Mirza Teletovic start the fourth alongside rookie Mason Plumlee and veteran Alan Anderson.
“They deserved to play; I should have let them play the whole game,” Kidd said. “They’re playing for one another. It’s not perfect, but that group gave us opportunity, got it to eight I think at one point. You got to tip your hat to those guys because those guys are playing hard, and they’re helping one another on the offensive end and defensive end.”
Said Pierce: “He’s the coach. He makes those decisions.”
The Nets were outscored in the paint 56-22, had 17 turnovers and trailed by as many as 16.
Asked whether the Nets were getting complacent and comfortable losing, Johnson replied, “No. I can speak for us as a whole, and I know we’re not getting complacent, we’re trying to come up with everything possible to try to turn this thing around, and it’s just frustrating defensively. We seem a bit out of sync at times. And it’s killing us, especially in the third quarter.”