The Nets’ last meeting with the Pelicans stung because they had taken such a thorough beating, because they hadn’t competed. Saturday’s loss hurt so much because the Nets competed so hard only to have their hearts broken.
They saw a huge rally fall just short in a 138-128 double-overtime loss before 16,572 at Barclays Center on Saturday. It was their fifth straight loss and their ninth in 10 games. And it might have been even more galling than their December defeat.
On Dec. 27, the Nets fell behind by 33 before closing late to lose 128-113. But on Saturday, they played at home against a depleted team without DeMarcus Cousins, one that had lost five of six since the All-Star big man went down with a torn left Achilles. And after rallying from a 28-point hole to force not one but two overtimes, they came up short.
“Sure [I remember that December loss]. I think we all do,” coach Kenny Atkinson said before the game. “We’re competitors. We all have a memory of that game. We’re obviously struggling a little bit, so it’ll be nice to get … you’d love to get off to a good start and have a chance at the end.”
The Nets (19-38) had their chance but couldn’t fully seize it.
Allen Crabbe had a team-high 28 points, while Spencer Dinwiddie added 24 points and 10 assists. D’Angelo Russell had 21 points but got pulled after a silly turnover in the waning seconds of regulation and didn’t get back in until the late stages of the second overtime. By that point, New Orleans had pulled away.
The Nets saw Pelicans star Anthony Davis pour in a game-high 44 points and grab 17 rebounds, while Rajon Rondo posted a triple-double, racking up 25 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.
Dante Cunningham, acquired from the Pelicans (29-26) on Monday, recalled them as a feisty team that never quit. That summed up Saturday — but the result still stung.
“They play hard every night. They’re in every game,” Cunningham said prior to tip-off. “They go out there every night and their heads are down, they’re at the rim, they’re making the right plays. That’s what I like.”
Down 89-61 midway through the third, the Nets closed on a 55-27 run to force overtime. Atkinson sat Russell after an ill-advised backcourt violation in the final minute of regulation, but Crabbe’s game-tying corner 3-pointer with 12.2 seconds left — and Davis’ missed fadeaway with a second left — forced overtime.
In the first overtime, the Nets struck first on Crabbe’s 3-pointer, taking their first lead of the evening. And after Jrue Holiday cut it to 119-118, Crabbe drilled another for a 122-118 edge.
Nikola Mirotic went to the line but made just one of two with 1:41 left in overtime. Holiday’s three-point play knotted it with 1:15 to play. On the ensuing possession, Crabbe appeared to get away with a travel. Then after getting blocked, he inbounded to Joe Harris, who somehow snuck open under the basket for a go-ahead layup.
Holiday tied it at 124-all, and DeMarre Carroll got stripped in the paint by Rondo with 3.7 seconds left, but Holiday couldn’t get off a final shot. That sent the game into a second overtime, where the Nets fell excruciatingly short.
Davis’ jumper opened the scoring in the second overtime, and Mirotic’s 18-footer doubled the lead. When Carroll fouled out with 2:50 to play, it gave Davis two free throws and Atkinson little choice but to bring Russell back in.
It was too late. Davis’ foul shots left them down 130-124 with 2:50 left on the clock, and they never rallied.
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