Ugly first half sends Pelicans to loss at Brooklyn

NEW YORK — During a slim two-game winning streak and a stretch that saw them win six of eight, the Pelicans discovered how to win in the second half.

On Sunday night at Brooklyn, they were again reminded about setting the pace in the opening half.

After a dismal first half, the Pelicans rallied at times in the second, but it wasn’t enough as they fell 93-81 to the Nets to open a three-game road trip.

The Pelicans visit Toronto on Monday before trekking to Milwaukee on Wednesday.

On Sunday, the Pelicans scored a season-low 28 points and shot 27 percent in the first half. They trailed by 23 points at halftime and barely topped their season-low total of 77 points.

Still, the Pelicans trailed by just nine points early in the final quarter on Luke Babbitt’s 3-pointer. But they couldn’t get any closer.

New Orleans got off to a slow start, missing its first seven shots and committing three turnovers in the process, falling behind 11-0 in the opening minutes.

The Nets were paced by their bench players, who accounted for 59 points. They were led by rookie center Mason Plumlee, who had a career-high 22. Mirza Teletovic and Alan Anderson each had 13 points.

The Nets also have won 10 of their past 12 home games.

“We cut the lead late, but we just couldn’t make the big baskets when we needed to,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “We just missed too many shots and free throws, and it got to a point where we had to be almost perfect out there.

“In our first five possessions, we didn’t come out with the same kind of zeal that we had the past few games.”

Williams wasn’t totally surprised by his club’s uncharacteristic effort after a series of recent strong efforts. The Pelicans finished the game shooting 36.1 percent.

“We’ll have games like this with this type of club,” he said. “But I am proud of how we didn’t lay down in the second half and we fought back.”

The Pelicans steadily cut into the Nets’ lead with efficient ball movement and aggressive defense, both elements they lacked in the first half. They began the third quarter with a 19-6 run paced by Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon and Brian Roberts that brought them back into the game.

Babbitt made a 3-pointer that cut the deficit to 69-60 in the final minute of the third quarter, but the Nets’ Deron Williams scored on a driving layup in the final second that gave the Nets a 71-60 lead after 36 minutes.

Davis led the Pelicans with 24 points, 17 of them in the second half. Roberts added 12 points and Austin Rivers 10.

“We just didn’t play well tonight,” Davis said. “We know it, the coaches know it and everybody knows it. We have to play defense at the start of games. We played defense in the second half, and that was a difference for us. We have to play like that at the start of games.”

Roberts saw it the same way.

“We started slow, and they came out aggressive,” he said. “We started to get things together after halftime, but it was too late. We have to learn from a game like this.”

The Pelicans closed the gap to 19-12 on an 8-0 run late in the first quarter, highlighted by Davis’ block at one end and dunk at the other off a feed from Gordon. But Brooklyn — behind 65 percent shooting — responded with a 10-2 spurt to take a 29-14 lead after the first quarter.

In the second, the Pelicans trailed by as many as 26 points and converted just 6 of 21 shots. They had a season-low 28 points at halftime.

Note: Williams didn’t give any timetable for the return of guard Tyreke Evans, who has injured right ribs. “(Evans) just needs rest,” he said. Evans returned to action in Friday’s win against Minnesota but was held out Sunday.