Nets' free fall continues vs. Spurs

The Nets search for answers to their latest subpar performance against the Spurs. Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

While the Brooklyn Nets were getting annihilated by the San Antonio Spurs for the second time this season, you had to wonder: How could they let this happen?

How could the Nets, a team with such grand aspirations, lose by 25 to a Spurs squad playing without two of its three best players?

Why couldn’t they hold a 12-point second-quarter lead? Where was the desire, the passion, the will to come back during their all-too-familiar third-quarter debacle?

And what the heck is up with Deron Williams?

“We got our butts kicked,” forward Reggie Evans said after the Nets were blown out of the Barclays Center, 111-86, by the Spurs, who rolled despite being without Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili on Sunday night.

“This is unacceptable,” interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said after the Nets were outscored 86-49 by the Spurs in the final 35 minutes, 44 seconds (60-29 in the second half). “We have to play better.”

Trouble is, they haven’t. And their free fall continues. The Nets have lost six of their past nine games. During that span, they’ve averaged 88.2 points and have allowed 97.0 points. They haven’t played well since Jan. 21, when they beat the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

“No, I’m not worried,” said Williams (15 points, three assists, three turnovers), who was thoroughly outplayed by Tony Parker (29 points, 11 assists, no turnovers) all night long.

“I think we have to take it upon ourselves to fix it. It’s not just gonna magically happen. We just have to trust in each other on both ends of the floor.”

They did in the first half, and held a 57-51 lead heading into the locker room on the strength of 56.4 percent shooting and 37 points combined from their big three of Brook Lopez (14), Joe Johnson (13) and Williams (10).

But everything unraveled from there.

In the third, the Nets allowed the Spurs to shoot 63.2 percent and were outscored 30-14. The fourth quarter was much of the same, with Johnson and Lopez being held scoreless in the final frame. Boos came down from the rafters throughout the final 12 minutes, and fans began heading to the exits in masses with about four minutes left.

“It's effort. It’s character. It’s heart,” Gerald Wallace said. “We’ve got to be able to respond. When things go bad, we kind of drop our heads. Instead of pulling together as a team, we go in five different directions on the court. And it shows. Our offense is stagnant. The ball sticks on one side, and, defensively, nobody helps anybody, and they just do what they want to do offensively. And the results are what they are. We’re not gonna win playing individual basketball.”

The Nets (29-22) have been outscored 215-159 in two losses to the Spurs this season, and 60-19 in the third quarter. They are 11-20 against teams with .500-or-better records (at time of game played). Brooklyn is 1-19 in its last 20 against San Antonio.

The Nets looked like they had it finally figured it out when Carlesimo took over for Avery Johnson and they won 12 of 14. Turns out, they haven’t.

Josh Smith would certainly help in that process -- if GM Billy King can somehow come up with a way to land him.

“We should take look at the guys in San Antonio, 1 through 15," Wallace said. “Everybody knows their role. it doesn't matter who they have on the court, their offense looks the same, their defense looks the same. We’ve got to get that mentality, regardless of who’s on the court for us, our offense and defense has got to look the same for all four quarters. We have to stay together as a team instead of pulling apart.”