Nets drop third straight in 97-87 loss to Trail Blazers

Don Ryan/AP
Nets center Brook Lopez (l.) battles with twin brother Robin Lopez (r.) for a rebound during Saturday night’s 97-87 loss to the Trail Blazers.

PORTLAND — The Nets finished their road trip with a clearer understanding that the West is still the better conference by far, even when one of its teams is shorthanded.

Brooklyn lost its third straight in an ugly performance Saturday night while shooting miserably from 3-point range and receiving a shocking lack of production from its bench. The final score of 97-87 was a relief for a Portland squad without two of its best players, and a disappointment for a Nets team now in need of a victory Monday against Miami to avoid a four-game losing streak before Jason Kidd comes to town Wednesday.

The Nets combined to make just one of their 19 three-point attempts, and that lone conversion wasn’t until the final attempt by Deron Williams in garbage time.

Starter Bojan Bogdanovic and bench players Mason Plumlee, Alan Anderson, Mirza Teletovic and Jorge Gutierrez shot a combined 1-for-19 from the field.

“It’s a sorry way to end the road trip,” Williams said. “We thought we were going to get a couple of these, instead we’re walking away with none.”

Brook Lopez led the Nets with 21 points, but he was again benched for the final four minutes and managed just four rebounds.

Williams and Joe Johnson combined for 39 points and Kevin Garnett posted a double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds). But Damian Lillard’s double-double for Portland (28 points, 10 assists) carried the night.

The road trip started Wednesday with Johnson calling out his teammates for their “selfish” play, trying to make a point that the Nets’ early success was a product of a cupcake schedule against the bottom of the East.

He was right about the second part.

In a span of four days, the Nets (4-5) lost to the Suns, Warriors and Trail Blazers (7-3) by an average of 8.7 points. But Saturday was the worst defeat, without many redeeming qualities for a Nets team that never led after an 8-7 edge.

The Nets played under fortuitous circumstances with Portland missing starters LaMarcus Aldridge (illness) and Nicolas Batum (knee injury). Aldridge, an All-Star power forward, entered the game as the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, and his absence provided extended minutes for otherwise little-used sub Meyers Leonard.

“I’m just heatbroken about it,” Nets coach Lionel Hollins joked before the game.

The Nets couldn’t capitalize, though, falling behind by nine after the first quarter and 11 at the half. They were out of sync early because of foul trouble, with Williams and Lopez each getting whistled twice within the opening eight minutes.

Williams was particularly peeved at the circumstances, throwing his mouthpiece to the ground as he walked briskly to the bench.

Brooklyn then had to finish the first quarter with players typically deep on the bench, Gutierrez and Jerome Jordan, as the Nets missed 14 of their first 19 shots.

Williams and Lopez picked up the slack in the second quarter, combining for 24 first-half points to keep the Nets within striking distance.

Lopez still was a meager rebounder, though, two days after he was owned on the glass by Andrew Bogut and vowed to do better. He had just one rebound in 15 first-half minutes.

Lopez played against his identical twin brother Robin for the first time since April of 2013, and fell to 3-5 in head-to-head match ups. Robin finished with 10 points and six rebounds.

On what he needs to do to play in the fourth quarter, Lopez said: “I need to be more aggressive and have more effort. I feel slow out there, kind of in the mud. I just need to keep working and getting back to moving more.”

The Nets made a couple mini-runs throughout the game, but Portland always managed a quick response. The Nets pulled to within six with about three minutes remaining, but Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews then buried Brooklyn with a three-pointer over Teletovic.

The game marked a homecoming of sorts for Hollins, whose No. 14 is hanging in the rafters. Hollins was a key part of Portland’s 1977 championship squad.

“It’s up there and I’m happy it’s up there, but it’s no emotion or anything,” Hollins said. “I know why it’s up there.” 

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