Nets fall to Pelicans, Zion Williamson as play-in hopes keep fading

This goose is cooked.

Even the most delusional will have a hard time seeing a path for the Nets to make the play-in tournament at this point.

They were ripped 104-91 by the Pelicans on Tuesday night at Barclays Center, and now sit 4 ¹/₂ games behind the Hawks for the final play-in spot in the Eastern Conference with just 13 games left to play.

Zion Williamson slams home a dunk during the Nets’ 104-91 loss to the Pelicans. Robert Sabo for New York Post

The loss extended the Nets’ losing streak to four games, the fourth time they have lost at least four straight this season.

The plethora of empty seats were an indictment of where the Nets find themselves at this stage of the season, simply playing out the string the rest of the way.

It was hardly even competitive.

And it quickly got ugly.

The Pelicans used a 20-4 run to start the second quarter to build a 47-25 lead and never looked back.

At times, it was as if the Pelicans were simply running practice drills, effortlessly shredding the Nets’ defense.

They were left with little to do to stop the Nets’ disjointed offense, which produced 13 turnovers — nine of which came in the first half.

“They were making shots,” head coach Kevin Ollie said of the Pelicans’ second-quarter run. “[Larry] Nance making shots and 3s, guys that we wanted to take shots, they were making 3s. Zion [Williamson] got in transition, when we fronted him in transition, he got a couple of lobs over the top. Just a couple of things we talked about in our game plan that we didn’t want to happen happened in that second quarter.”

Kevin Ollie yells out instructions during the Nets’ loss. Robert Sabo for New York Post

Fans were far more excited for Williamson’s monster alley-oop dunk in the fourth quarter than anything the Nets produced.

But it wasn’t even the red-hot and slimmed down Williamson who was doing most of the damage when the Pelicans went on their big run.

He picked up two early fouls and had just eight points in the first half before coming alive in the second half, finishing with 28.

It was Nance, who entered Tuesday averaging just 5.5 points, who torched the Nets, hitting his first five shots from the field for 11 first-half points before finishing with 13 points.

Cam Thomas makes a pass during the Nets’ loss. Robert Sabo for New York Post

CJ McCollum chipped in 16 points, and Brandon Ingram added 11. The Nets allowed the Pelicans to shoot 50.6 percent from the field.

Mikal Bridges, who was playing his 500th consecutive game, was the only Net to make a shot in the team’s first 11 attempts, as they started 2-for-11 from the field.

As a team, the Nets shot a paltry 36.9 percent. Cam Thomas provided a rare bright spot, pouring in a team-high 25 points.

“It’s exhausting,” Thomas said of having to say the same things loss after loss. “At the same time, we have to do it so we don’t say the same stuff over and over. We just have to go out there and do what we say up here. Even down to me, everybody, we have to do what we say up here — the effort, energy, whatever all that is, we just have to do it so we don’t get up here. We sound like a broken record every time we say the same stuff.”

Cam Thomas scores on a jumper during the Nets’ victory. Robert Sabo for NY Post

The Nets used a 6-0 run in the first quarter to tie the game at 15-15, but that effort was fleeting.

The Pelicans quickly ripped off a 10-3 run to take a 25-18 lead before unleashing their second-quarter outburst.

The Nets started the second half on a 9-5 run to cut their deficit to 11, but again, they couldn’t sustain it.

The Pelicans quickly responded with a 15-5 run as their lead ballooned right back to 21 points.

The Nets can take some solace in their second-half defensive performance, holding the Pelicans to 40 points. But like so much of their season, it was far too little, too late.

Christ the King product Jose Alvarado, true to his identity, was a pest, hounding the Nets’ guards all night.

It’s hard to find similar energy or that level of effort on the Nets these days. It’s probably why the Pelicans are headed to the postseason, and the Nets are soon headed for vacation.

“Holding this team to 104 points, those are games we should win,” Ollie said. “Just didn’t make enough shots tonight to win. … When you get down by 20, it’s very hard.”

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