The day began with the Nets announcing the first official casualty of their underwhelming start by saying Lawrence Frank had been “reassigned” from his assistant coaching position.
Later, it was more of the same for the Nets.
That meant another poor performance in Tuesday’s 111-87 loss to the Nuggets that dropped them to a dreadful 5-13 with two days before the underwhelming “Battle of New York” with the slightly worse Knicks.
Joe Johnson led the Nets with 22 points while Brook Lopez had 12 points in his first home game since Nov. 9 following an ankle injury. Their presence hardly mattered in a game Paul Pierce missed with a broken hand, Deron Williams missed with a sprained ankle and Kevin Garnett contributed one dunk in 16 minutes.
“We need to figure this out soon,” Garnett said. “I don’t think anyone around here is having fun and losing is definitely not fun.”
“It’s pretty much the same thing,” Johnson said. “We’re just not even giving ourselves a chance and that’s the most frustrating thing.”
Tuesday seemed like it would be a decent opportunity to start a turnaround, as it began a month where the Nets would play nine of 12 games at home. But that simply means nine opportunities for the crowd to boo the poor product on the court, as they did late in the third quarter when the Nets fell behind 80-60.
The sequence that led to that reaction was a missed jump shot by Andray Blatche followed by Wilson Chandler easily snatching the rebound. Nine seconds later, Darrell Arthur hit an open jump shot, capping a 15-0 run.
Arthur’s basket also ended a 20-4 run that turned the deficit from 60-56 to 80-60, marking the sixth time in 18 games that the Nets faced at least a 20-point deficit. During that stretch of six and a half minutes, the Nets took two layups and went 1-for-8 while allowing the Nuggets to go 8-for-11, a stretch that included consecutive dunks by Kenneth Faried and Chandler.
“They just seemed to put a run together that didn’t get answered,” Garnett said. “We were trying to figure out how to patch this thing up, how to get this thing together. There’s a lot of moving parts to this.”
“In the third quarter, it’s a four-point game with eight minutes and some change, [and then] we can’t score,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “Denver continues to keep playing. They get a couple of rebounds, put-backs and from there it just went quickly onto the 20-4 run.
“We sometimes can’t put the ball in the basket and we stop playing on the other end, so you’re talking about a four-point game with eight minutes or so. Guys are starting to look like they had games where we’ve let go of the rope. It’s something that we have to address and get better at.”
The Nets were outscored 31-15 in the third quarter as they shot 4-for-15 while the defense allowed Denver to shoot 52 percent. If that wasn’t bad enough, by the time the fourth began the Nets were getting outrebounded by a 46-25 margin.
Denver easily surged toward the century mark early in the fourth quarter and when the Nets called a timeout 4:02 into the fourth many opted not to boo but instead head for the exits. The Nuggets topped 100 points on a short hook by ex-Knick big man Mozgov.
The game began getting away from the Nets after Kidd took out Lopez with three minutes to go in the first quarter. Lopez had 10 points and the Nets had a 24-19 lead but when Lopez returned with 6:34 left in the second, the Nets had fallen behind 42-37 and one inept three possession sequence late in the half seemed to epitomize the evening.
Lopez beat Kenneth Faried for a rebound off an Andray Blatche miss. But Lopez had it easily rejected, and the ball found its way to Ty Lawson.
Lawson blew past Tyshawn Taylor with a behind-the-back dribble, easily scored and Blatche missed an inopportune 3-pointer. That sent the Nets into halftime facing a 58-50 deficit and made the respectable 24-16 lead on 10-of-15 shooting with 4:11 to play in the opening period a distant memory.
“These are frustrating times right now,” Garnett said. “This is a strong group mentally and this is going to tell us who’s in and who’s out to be honest.”
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.