'Not a good loss' for Blazers
All defeats are not equal.
"Not a good loss, not a good loss," guard CJ McCollum said in a gloomy Trail Blazers locker room Friday night after Portland got caught and passed by an unlikely foe, the shorthanded Brooklyn Nets.
A 17-0 run in the third quarter turned the game around for the visitors, who improved to 5-7 with their 101-97 triumph.
Portland, coming off a 98-97 loss Tuesday at home to Memphis, fell to 6-6.
"We shouldn't have lost," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said, "but Brooklyn deserved to win."
The Nets showed more energy and effort, with a defense that gained confidence in the second half and made the key plays in the final minutes.
"They outplayed us after the first quarter, but particularly in the third quarter," Stotts said. "They played harder than we did. They got loose balls. They ran faster. And in the last five minutes, anything can happen."
Stotts' players couldn't argue with his assessment.
"No offense to the Brooklyn Nets, but that's a game we should have won," McCollum said.
Added Blazers forward Ed Davis: "We're definitely the better team, but we didn't show it tonight. It's a home game, they're on a road trip — it's just a game we should have won."
The Blazers, with a lot of home games early on their schedule and against lesser opponents, figured to be above .500. And maybe way above.
"It's not necessarily the records. It's just how we're losing," Davis said. "Obviously it's disappointing."
How did this debacle happen?
The Nets committed to hard work defensively, and eventually a lot of good looks and open shots they had been missing began to fall.
Their big run took 4:38 and carried them from a 65-55 deficit to a 72-65 lead.
It was a near-photo finish horse racing coming down the stretch, but the Nets made more plays in that span, too.
Brooklyn had a 96-95 lead when it made a turnover and missed a shot, but Portland committed back-to-back turnovers, giving the Nets the ball with 41.1 seconds remaining.
Point guard D'Angelo Russell then made a step-back shot for a 98-95 lead.
McCollum's baseline drive for a layup made the score 98-97 with 33 seconds left.
Russell drove on Davis and drew a foul on his basket. Russell missed his free throw, but the Nets got the rebound and were fouled with 8.1 seconds to go. Russell made only one of two shots, but that gave Brooklyn a 101-97 lead.
McCollum couldn't get a good look and missed an off-balance 3 from the corner with one second remaining.
It was a huge night for one Net in particular — former Blazers guard Allen Crabbe. Traded by Portland in the offseason, Crabbe made his first return appearance a memorable one, starting for the fifth time this season and battling McCollum much of the night, including at the end.
Crabbe finished with 12 points, and more important he helped hold McCollum to 17. Crabbe was 5 of 11 from the field, 2 of 7 on 3-pointers. McCollum was 6 of 16, 3 of 6 — after going for 36 points on Tuesday.
"I've been playing against CJ for four years, I know what he likes to do," Crabbe said. "I was just trying to limit him, hold him down from having a big night."
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson spoke before the game about the need for defense, especially against McCollum and backcourt mate Damian Lillard, who totaled 19 points but was 1 of 5 from beyond the arc and 7 of 16 overall.
"It comes down to individual pride," Atkinson said. "We've got to compete consistently and get after it, keep our heads up. It really comes down to how many times can we forced them into tough shots and then go get a rebound."
"I credit our defense a lot," Crabbe said. "We just kept playing together. Those stops at the end and some of the plays we made at crunch time were big.
"I've been playing against CJ for four years, I know what he likes to do. I was just trying to limit him, hold him down from having a big night."
The result was Brooklyn snapping a four-game skid against the Blazers, who still lead the all-time series 36-7 in games played in Portland.
"We were back to the team I saw in preseason," said Atkinson, whose club will play Saturday at Utah. "I feel a lot better about this group."
Russell led five Nets in double figures with 21 points, and he had nine assists. And what Atkinson also liked was that he limited his turnovers to two in 28 minutes.
"He read the game really well and picked his spots," Atkinson said.
Crabbe also was happy about the rousing ovation he got from the sellout crowd of 19,393 during the pregame introductions.
"That was the reaction I was expecting," said Crabbe, who spent his previous four NBA seasons with Portland. "I'd been getting a lot of love on social media."
Center Jusuf Nurkic led the Blazers with 21 points, but he played only 53 seconds in the fourth quarter, after appearing to tire as Brooklyn made its big run.
"I thought with their small lineup," Stotts said of the Nets, "we were giving up too much defensively when he was in the game, and I like Davis' athleticism."
Portland lost despite a season-low 11 turnovers.
But the Nets out-shot the Blazers from the field in the second half, 48.9 percent to 38.3 percent, outscoring them 28-14 in the paint.
"We showed we can put up points on any variety of shooting," Russell said. "And we played defense for all 48 minutes. Everybody played their part."
Stotts said he told his team after the game that "we have to be consistent and play the same way — we didn't play the same way in the third quarter. We had only four assists in the second half; we had nine in the first quarter.
"I didn't think we moved the ball as well as we should have."