The Brooklyn Nets were unmerciful critics here Wednesday as they took turns roasting their own horrid play.
“That was ugly,” Shaun Livingston said.
“It’s too late in the season to be playing like this,” Kevin Garnett said, using slightly more colorful language.
“Our defense was horrible, pretty much,” Deron Williams said. “It’s a little embarrassing, a veteran team like this, to lose by that amount.”
That eye-popping amount was 44 points, as the Nets foundered to a 124-80 defeat to the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center.
Will Barton, a reserve for the Blazers, capped their first half with a thunderous breakaway dunk, delighting the sellout crowd, while extending his team’s lead to 24 points. There were two full quarters to play, but the game was effectively over. Coach Jason Kidd removed his starters halfway into the third quarter and never returned them to the floor. They were not doing much, anyway.
Kidd’s in-game actions spoke louder than his postgame words, which were mollifying in tone.
“This is the NBA,” he said. “Games like this happen.”
They do not happen all that often, though. It was their worst margin of defeat since Dec. 13, 2003, when they lost by 47 to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Portland coach Terry Stotts praised the Nets before the game.
“They don’t play at a particularly fast pace,” he said, “but they pick their spots.”
But they never did. The Nets seemed a step slow on every play, a foot or two off on every pass. They looked unathletic and aimless. They were out-rebounded, 53-29. They shot 39.5 per cent from the field, while letting the Trail Blazers shoot 53.5.
Portland was the Nets’ fourth stop on this trip. They looked road weary. It was worrying, considering they have two more cities to visit before they return home.
“We’ll see where we’re at,” Garnett said about the Nets’ next game, Thursday night against the Denver Nuggets. “We’ll see what kind of character we’ve got.
The game was well out of hand when Jason Collins entered in the fourth quarter, making his second appearance since signing a 10-day deal on Sunday. Collins, who is the league’s first openly gay active player, played for about seven minutes and missed his only shot.
As the Nets were considering signing Collins last week, many Nets players predicted that he would attract a large media presence wherever the team went. That proved true Wednesday morning, as a dozen or so reporters surrounded him at the Nets’ morning workout. Williams smiled at the scene from afar, snapping a picture on his iPhone.
Collins continued to express hope that the hoopla regarding his place in history would gradually die down. But he said he did appreciate the support. Some fans at the Moda Center on Wednesday held up signs praising Collins. And his No. 98 Nets home jersey on Wednesday remained the top-selling item on the NBA Store website.
“I really wasn’t thinking along those lines,” Collins said, “but it’s really cool that all the people are interested in going out and getting a Brooklyn 98 jersey.”
Collins, a 7-foot-tall center, was mostly unneeded Wednesday because injuries had stripped the Blazers of several of their big players. It reflected poorly on the Nets that the Blazers were able to inflict such damage without LaMarcus Aldridge, their All-Star power forward, who missed his fifth straight game because of a strained left groin muscle.
The Blazers never missed him. Seven players, including four reserves, scored in double figures.
“Man, we could have played against the Eastern Conference All-Stars, we shouldn’t lose by 40, regardless of who’s out there,” Paul Pierce said.
The embarrassment was typified midway through the third quarter. With about six minutes remaining in the period, Robin Lopez rejected Williams. Then Wesley Matthews picked up the loose ball and flipped it to Dorell Wright, who carried it across midcourt and scooped it into the air near the Nets basket. Up there, Nicolas Batum caught the ball and smashed in a two-handed dunk. It was 69-40.
The Nets took a timeout, and Williams, the final Nets starter on the floor, took a seat on the bench.
“There’s no excuse for this performance – or lack thereof,” Garnett said.