Brook Lopez had a start to remember. The finish, however, was something he would prefer to forget.
Despite scoring 28 points, Lopez failed three times when the offense went to him in the final minute and the Nets were handed a disappointing 92-90 loss to the Bulls.
The game was decided on Nate Robinson’s floater with 22.7 seconds remaining as a result of a bad pass by Lopez as he tried to post up.
“Let’s start with the post-up. I felt like I was in the key for a little, so I was looking through my options of where to kick it out to,” Lopez said. “It was a terrible play on my part.”
The worst however was yet to come for Lopez, who was 10-for-19 from the field but missed eight of his final 10 shots.
With 7.9 seconds remaining, Lopez had a layup attempt partially blocked by Nazr Mohammed despite getting deep post position. Then as the final seconds ticked off, he missed an open 17-footer that would have forced overtime.
“The next play D-Will hit me with a good pass, I didn’t finish strong though and the same thing happened on the third play,” Lopez said. “I got a good look and it didn’t go down but at that point though you can’t really blame the last play for what happened previously.”
“It was a good shot,” Williams said. “We’ll take that shot 10 out of 10 times. It’s his spot on the floor and he had a good look.”
Had Lopez been able to make a play in those three possessions, the Nets could have won despite blowing a 16-point lead. The game would have been remembered for several clutch plays by Joe Johnson and Deron Williams.
Instead it was lamented as a game that slipped away due to an inability to stop Carlos Boozer, rebound or hold on to the ball. Boozer scored 19 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter, the Bulls dominated the glass by a 46-30 margin (23-11 in the second half) and the Nets committed eight of their 16 turnovers in the fourth.
“In the first half, we were the more aggressive team,” Nets interim head Coach P.J. Carlesimo said. “We were the more physical team and we defended really well. In the second half they set the tone. They were more physical than we were, particularly on the boards and we obviously never got a handle on Carlos.”
A win also would have given the Nets a tie in the four-game season series with Chicago. Instead, they saw their lead over both Atlanta and Chicago reduced to 1 1/2 games in the standings.
“It’s tough,” Johnson said. “This is a game that we desperately needed considering where we are at the standings at this point. In the first half we were pretty good. In the second half I didn’t think we pushed the ball as much as we did in the first.”
Williams scored nine of his 30 in the final 3 1/2 minutes and his spinning layup around Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer provided the Nets with a 90-87 lead with 32.7 seconds left.
Johnson scored nine of his 12 in the fourth quarter and hit a big 3-pointer that gave the Nets an 88-86 lead with 1:14 to play.
Each time, the Bulls had an answer and when the Nets couldn’t generate a good response, they sustained one of their more disappointing losses of the season.
“I contributed a lot to how the final score ended up and that’s not something I’m happy with,” Lopez said.
Long before coming up empty in the final minute, Lopez and the Nets were scorching. Lopez made his first six shots, eight of his first nine and had 18 points as the Nets took a 13-point lead that increased to 16 five minutes into the second.
Then the aggressiveness stopped, the turnovers started and much to the delight of the many Chicago fans that made the trip to Brooklyn, the collapse was on.
“We couldn’t get stops when we needed them,” Johnson said. “We had a bunch of breakdowns defensively and gave them a lot of easy baskets.”
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.