NEW YORK -- Brooklyn Nets max-contract reserve Brook Lopez looked like an embarrassed middle school kid who had broken a rule and knew that he was going to be punished for it. His head was down and spoke softly to reporters, almost as if he were apologizing to a parent for his wrongdoing.
Late in the third quarter of Wednesday night's disheartening 89-81 loss to the Boston Celtics at Barclays Center, Lopez failed to put forth the effort needed to chase down a loose ball. Jae Crowder got to it, eventually was fouled and then knocked down a pair of free throws to give the Celtics a 69-60 lead with 28 seconds remaining in the frame.
"[I just told him] that he was being lazy," Nets coach Lionel Hollins said. "That's all it is."
Lopez finished with six points on 2-for-7 shooting in 17 minutes. The previous five games, when he averaged 18.8 points and 7.8 rebounds, seem nothing more than a distance memory.
"It wasn't great," Lopez said. "I'm definitely disappointed in myself. I felt my effort was poor out there and I let my teammates down.
"I didn't realize Crowder was behind me and it was just a very poor night for me. I expect more of myself."
The Nets (16-19) have now lost three straight games -- scoring fewer than 90 points in each. They face the lowly Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night at home, then the Detroit Pistons, the NBA's hottest team, the following night on the road. The Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies come next, followed by a back-to-back with the Washington Wizards. The schedule doesn't let up from there until March.
Nets general manager Billy King may want to pick up the phone again and start exploring some trade options because this was one of those performances that clearly showed this team it could use a shakeup. If only it were that easy. ...
Fellow max-contract reserve Deron Williams reaggravated his sore left side just four minutes into his return to the lineup and did not return. The Nets shot just 40.5 percent, committing eight of their 18 turnovers in the second quarter. They trailed by as many as 11. Lopez logged just two minutes in the fourth.
Hustle plays like the one Lopez failed to make but Crowder did make proved to be the difference.
"No question," Mason Plumlee (16 points, 12 rebounds) replied when asked if the Nets were outhustled. "It hurts to say that, but that's what happened."
Avery Bradley (21 points) admitted to Boston reporters that the Celtics (12-21, 2-1 vs. Nets) need to get 50-50 balls because, "We're not a very talented team."
The Nets might be a talented team on paper, but it didn't show Wednesday night, and really, it hasn't shown for much of the season. Joe Johnson (17 points in 37 minutes) continues to bust it on a daily basis, but he hasn't had much help. Kevin Garnett is giving it his all at 38. Plumlee has done everything but make free throws. And Jarrett Jack continues to perform well for the most part as a starter.
But the Nets haven't gotten much of late from their European shooters -- Mirza Teletovic, Bojan Bogdanovic and Sergey Karasev -- and Williams is shooting just 39.6 percent. Lopez has also been inconsistent.
Whether it's injuries necessitating lineup changes or yet another new coach implementing yet another new system, the excuses are readily available. The Nets are trying to stay away from them, but the reality is they're a flailing group in need of a quick turnaround -- because things are about to get much more difficult.