Nets start new season with ugly loss to Zion Williamson-led Pelicans

New Orleans Pelicans’ Zion Williamson (1) drives past Brooklyn Nets’ Day’Ron Sharpe and Patty Mills (8) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022, in New York.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

It wasn’t exactly the start to the year that the Nets had envisioned. 

Brooklyn fell behind by as much as 18 points in the first half and then by 25 in the second half as they dropped the season opener 130-108 to the New Orleans Pelicans. The Nets issues that plagued them last season appeared to rear their ugly heads yet again on a night where Kevin Durant was the only Net who really shined. 

The Nets fell behind quickly after the opening tip-off and spent the entire night playing catchup to the Pelicans. The loss marked the ninth time that the Nets have dropped a season opener since they moved to Brooklyn, with their only wins coming on Dec. 12, 2020, when they defeated Golden State and their inaugural season at Barclays in 2012 when they beat Toronto. 

Brooklyn is now 20-26 in season openers in franchise history. 

“Just one of those games where you just don’t do the small things well at all,” Durant said. “36-4 second chance points. Never gonna win like that. You got three of their best players – three of the best players in the league – get 20 points apiece. I mean, it’s tough to win. So, first quarter down 32-14. I mean, I came out and I had three turnovers.

“And then I took…the first shot I took was just a horrible shot. I just set a bad precedent for the rest of the night. So I’ve got to come more locked in. I felt I was locked in, but I’ve just got to be better.”

The Nets struggled across the board on Wednesday as the new Big 3 got acclimated with one another. The much-anticipated debut of Ben Simmons didn’t go as planned with the newest member of the Big 3 looking uncomfortable at times during his 23 minutes of work.

Simmons fouled out with 9:04 left in the fourth quarter, finishing the night with four points on 2-of-3 shooting. He also recorded five rebounds, five assists and turned over the ball three times in 23 minutes of work. 

“I think I was just too excited, honestly,” Simmons explained. “But it was just great to be out there. It’s the first game and you obviously want to win but we know the reasons we lost. There are multiple reasons we lost and those are the things we need to fix. We know that’s not us as a team I think there’s a lot of jitters out there early on but it was good to get that one out of the way.” 

Kyrie Irving struggled as well shooting just 6-of-19 from the field and missing all six shot attempts from beyond the arc. He finished the game with 13 points, five assists and two steals. 

Durant was far and away the Nets’ best player on the court, putting up a game-high 32 points and tying a game-high with four blocks. His best moment came in the closing seconds of the first half when he denied Brandon Ingram as he tried to drive the lane for a dunk. 

The Nets shot 44.9% from the field in the ugly season-opening loss and just 30.3% from beyond the arc. Worse, the Nets were out-rebounded by a 61 to 30 margin and turned over the ball 16 times for 26 points. 

Brooklyn was also outscored in the paint 62-46 on Wednesday night and outscored in second-chance points 36-4. 

Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant shoots over New Orleans Pelicans’ Naji Marshall (8), Brandon Ingram (14) and CJ McCollum during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022, in New York.AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

“Clearly, I think they beat us in every category tonight,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “I think clearly we started the game a little hectic, A little bit rattled to start, and sometimes that’s normal. First night out, excitement. New group. Obviously, it was a little clunky at times, but my message to the guys was just the rasing our standards, the competition.”

Things quickly slipped away from Brooklyn right out of the gate as the Pelicans opened up an 11-2 lead with 8:23 left in the first quarter after a Zion Williamson running finger roll layup. Things continued to get worse when the Pelicans took a 16-point lead off Jose Alvarado driving layup. 

The Nets didn’t manage to close the gap until the second quarter when they cut the deficit to eight after Royce O’Neale made a tipped layup in the closing seconds of the half. Durant had pulled Brooklyn within nine when he hit a pull-up three, but two quick baskets, including a turnaround fadeaway shot from Ingram with 49 seconds left in the game.

Zion Williamson started the second half off with a cutting layup to put NOLA back up by double digits. The basket was two of the 25 points he finished with on Wednesday. 

The Nets couldn’t close the gap from there as the Pelicans piled on the rest of the second half.

Wednesday marked the first game of the Nets’ 10th anniversary season in Brooklyn. The franchise relocated from New Jersey in 2012 to the then-brand-new Barclays Center.

The Nets are planning a number of special events around the 10-year anniversary, which included on opening night when they honored a number of corporate partners who have been with the team for its first decade in Brooklyn. The night also featured a halftime performance by rapper Fivio Foreign, who became the first person to wear the Nets’ 10-year-anniversary diamond chain necklace. 

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