Kidd benches four starters in second half

Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd benched four of his five starters for the entire second half of Friday’s 114-95 loss to the Houston Rockets.

Small forward Paul Pierce (1-for-6), shooting guard Joe Johnson (2-for-10), power forward Andray Blatche (0-for-6) and point guard Shaun Livingston (0-for-1), who combined to score just 7 points on 3-for-20 shooting, all sat for the final 24 minutes.

“I had to go with the guys that were gonna play hard,” Kidd told reporters in Houston.

The Nets (4-12), who have lost 10 of their past 12 games, gave up a season-high 66 points and 11 3-pointers in the first half. Effort was non-existent in stretches.

Asked why that was the case, Kidd frequently cited “fatigue” and his short-handed team playing five games in seven nights.

On Friday, the Nets were again without point guard Deron Williams (ankle), forward Andrei Kirilenko (back) and Jason Terry (back) due to injury. Power forward Kevin Garnett (rest) also did not play.

Center Brook Lopez (ankle) did return following a seven-game absence and was the only starter who was effective, scoring 16 points in 21 minutes. Lopez said he feels “great” and expects to play Saturday at Memphis, when the Nets wrap up a stretch of four games in five nights.

“No one quit,” Kidd said. “They were fatigued.”

Pierce, who is shooting just 36.8 percent from the field this season, left without talking to the media, according to reporters in Houston.

“It’s (Kidd’s) decision. He’s the coach. He coaches. We’re the players. We play,” said Johnson, who played just 16 minutes.

Asked if he was fatigued, Johnson replied, “I’m not fatigued. Not at all.”

“I guess he was trying to make a statement that we’ve all got to be held accountable,” Blatche said, adding that a lot of the Nets were “frustrated” and “embarrassed” by their performance.

“If you’re not out there going as hard as we possibly can and sticking to the game plan, he’s going to put some other guys in that are going to do it,” Blatche said.

In all, the Nets gave up a franchise-record 19 3-pointers and allowed the Rockets to shoot 52.7 percent from the field. Houston led by as many as 32.

“We let them do what they do best,” Lopez said. “We gave them easy looks from distance.”

Despite the team’s early-season struggles, the Nets trail the first-place Toronto Raptors (6-9) by just 2 1/2 games for the Atlantic Division lead and No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.

But eventually, they’re going to have to start winning.

“The team has been short-handed,” Kidd said. “The only thing we can try to do is get better and get healthy.”