The first quarter was about as good as it gets for the Nets.
Shots were falling, Kevin Garnett was aggressive and the offense seemed to be flowing in a way rarely seen through the previous nine games.
Unfortunately for them, there were still 36 minutes remaining and they were fairly awful, especially in the second half.
There was little to like from the Nets’ standpoint in Monday’s 108-98 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, who showed their youth and quickness in improving to 9-2, a record the Nets hoped to attain at this point when they talked about championship aspirations during training camp.
And about an hour after it ended, Garnett and Paul Pierce were nowhere to be found in a silent locker room, leaving Jason Terry, Shaun Livingston and rookie Mason Plumlee to explain things. The theme was mostly of patience, consistency and optimism.
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“We don’t know when it’s going to happen,” Terry said. “But when it does, it’s going to be special.”
Nobody seems to be sure exactly when that will happen.
“There is no timetable,” Terry said. “We’d like it to happen sooner than later, but No. 1, you have to get healthy. We’re missing our key big man and our star point guard. S—, I don’t know how much success you’re going to have without them. You’d rather have it happen now than later.”
The comments from Nets players came after head coach Jason Kidd put the loss on himself, saying it was caused by “bad coaching.”
“I take the blame for this,” Kidd said. “Guys played hard. We got a little stagnant on the offensive end. It just falls on my shoulders.”
When Terry was asked about it, he maintained a togetherness theme while Livingston chided himself for not being more aggressive.
“We look in the mirror, we feel it’s our fault,” Terry said. “Everybody’s in this together. That’s what it boils down.”
“It’s on all of us,” Livingston said. “I take a majority of that [blame] as well because as the point guard you got to initiate the offense, make the right play calls to get guys involved.”
The Nets may get it together at some point but in the 10th game of the most-anticipated season in their NBA existence, they do not seem close. The belief was they took a decent step forward in gutting out an overtime win Friday in Phoenix and losing a close game the next night to the Clippers.
However, whatever energy expended in those games and in the first quarter seemed nonexistent during the final 24 minutes after the Nets took a seven-point lead into halftime. The Nets shot 3-of-18 in the third quarter, a period that often gave them trouble last season.
“This was definitely a setback,” Plumlee said. “I think the energy wasn’t there tonight that you saw in L.A. and Phoenix. Whatever we do offensively and defensively, there has to be energy and effort. Some guys did it tonight and not everyone did it and that has to be consistent for us to be a good team.”
Brooklyn did not trail until the 4:08 mark of the third quarter when LaMarcus Aldridge knocked down an 18-foot fadeaway jumper for a 71-68 lead. That shot came after Andray Blatche missed a 20-footer and on the next sequence Tyshawn Taylor turned it over and Wesley Matthews swooped in for an easy layup.
Portland led by double digits over the final 9:27 and by then the Nets were hearing boos and Portland fans in the upper deck could be heard chanting “Let’s Go Blazers” and mocking the Brooklyn chant with chants of “Portland, Portland.”
About the only thing worth liking was Garnett’s 6-for-6 start. But Garnett made just two of his next 13 shots, finishing the game 8-for-19.
And when Garnett’s hot shooting faded away, nobody except for Shaun Livingston (23 points) stepped up. Paul Pierce returned from a groin injury and had nine points on 2-for-12 shooting. Joe Johnson had 13 points on 4-for-12 shooting.
Meanwhile Portland’s backcourt duo of Matthews and Damian Lilliard were hot for most of the night while Aldridge made up for not being able to stop Garnett early by scoring 19 of his 25 points after halftime.
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.