Mavs send Nets to third straight home lossDirk Nowitzki's 20 points spoil Joe Johnson's return
BROOKLYN - They say that March comes in like a lion, and on the month's first night, the Brooklyn Nets nearly roared back from a 20-point second half deficit before falling to the Dallas Mavericks, 98-90, at Barclays Center.
Deron Williams led the way with 24 points for Brooklyn (34-25) and Brook Lopez added 19 and nine rebounds, but it wasn't enough to stop the Mavericks, even on a night where the Nets held them below their season scoring average.
"If you told me before the game we were going to hold them to 98, I would've taken it; I would've told you that I thought we had a chance to win the game," Carlesimo said. "Both teams weren't really stopping each other; our defensive energy was lacking all night, and the way we took care of the ball, we're not going to beat many teams."
Beyond his team's defensive woes, Carlesimo noted that the team as a whole was plagued early and often by turnovers, one of which came at a key moment at the end of the first half that could've given the Nets a chance to blow the game open.
"Turnovers were a big problem in the first half, and we were fortunate at halftime; they had 48, but they missed some shots," Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "The way we ended the half, we should have had a five, six, seven point lead, but we turned it over and didn't finish the quarter."
In all, the Nets gave the ball away 19 times - with Williams committing seven turnovers while notching just two assists - and many of them were in situations that Carlesimo called inexcusable.
"You're going to turn the ball over some times, but had an assortment of really, really poor ones," Carlesimo said. "Our decision making was not good."
Despite everything, the Nets held a one-point lead at the halftime, but the third quarter malaise that has seemed to plague the Nets too often for their liking this year once again set in; Dallas outscored Brooklyn 29-15 in that period, turning a slim deficit into a 14-point lead that ballooned as high as 20 early in the fourth quarter.
"We needed more energy; for whatever reason we had a couple of turnovers early and then got a little flat after that," Carlesimo said. "The start of the quarter was so poor, and we drifted back to what's been a problem for us - when we don't score and we turn it over, we don't play with the same kind of energy."
Brooklyn refused to go down without a fight, however. Utilizing a lineup that saw Keith Bogans, C.J. Watson, and Mirza Teletovic play the entire fourth quarter, the Nets roared back to cut the Dallas lead to four in the final minute before succumbing down the stretch.
"We didn't really play with any defensive energy until that fourth quarter; we played a lot harder once we got down by 20 or so, but it wasn't any X's and O's, just energy," Carlesimo said. "We just kind of hung in and started playing hard, but that stretch where it got away from us really cost us the game."
Brook Lopez agreed, saying that until the fourth quarter run, it was a listless night all around.
"One through 12, we didn't have any energy; there was no energy on the floor, and no energy on the bench, and that's tough" Lopez said. "I think that when our guys are struggling out there, we on the bench need to be up a little more, trying to get them back in it."
Joe Johnson, the team's leading minute man and recent ace in late-game games, played just under 30 minutes in his return but only 3:37 in that final frame; Carlesimo said there was no minutes cap on the still slightly-hobbled guard - who himself said his heel "didn't give me any problems throughout the game" - but he was kept out late in the game simply because of timing.
"When I took Joe out the last time I thought maybe I'd play him in one more little spurt, but that group got going good, and I just thought that he had been sitting a while and the worst thing in the world would be to put him back in (and have him aggravate the heel injury)," Carlesimo said. "We're playing tomorrow night, and I thought for the first game back it was fine."
The loss was the Nets' third straight at Barclays Center, and it drops their home record to 20-13 on the season; the team is just 13-12 in Brooklyn after a hot 7-1 start in November, and several of the players were concerned about what seems to be becoming a home court disadvantage after the game.
"We've lost three straight [at home], that's what I'm most concerned with," Deron Williams said. "We keep talking about protecting home court, and we haven't."
The Nets now have a chance to get away and think about, with a quick two-game road swing beginning tomorrow night in Chicago. The Nets are 7-7 in the back end of back-to-backs this year, but will look to snap a skid that has them 0-7 when that game is on the road.
Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES