Sliding Nets still have no answers for late-game struggles

There’s still a lack of answers from the players and interim coach Kevin Ollie for the fourth-quarter slipups that have plagued the Nets all season.

There is a lack not only of shots made but overall composure when an opposing team starts to go on a late run to take the game away — the latest being the Nets’ 105-93 loss to the Knicks on Saturday.

The Nets have dropped six straight games.

Against the Spurs on March 17, they led 83-80 going into the fourth quarter and kept up with the West’s worst team to go into overtime.

But they put up just five points in the extra five minutes.

Cam Thomas and the Nets struggled in the fourth quarter of their loss to the Knicks on Saturday. AP

In two of those six games — against the Pacers and Knicks — they were within 10 points of closing the gap.

Ollie said he sees a group without a “superstar” to rely on.

A group that lacks “competitive stamina” and a care for the basics of the game in the ending moments.

One that needs to rely on each other in order to get a win.

“We have to double down on the small things. I just said it tonight: Can’t turn the ball over, we don’t have the depth we don’t have — I’m not gonna say the talent level, but we don’t have the superstar, we don’t have that,” Ollie said after Saturday’s loss. “So we have to be a collective group, we’ve got to play together, we got to do everything together, we’ve got to be tied together on offense and defense for us to win games. And I’m not saying that to you guys, I’m saying that to the team, that’s how we got to play. So, we see the turnovers, we see missed shots, but then you see offensive rebounds. And that’s how we lose games.”

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The Knicks owned the glass 47-41 and the sold out crowd at Madison Square Garden saw the Nets only grab eight offensive boards while the Knicks nabbed 16.

The Nets also committed 15 turnovers to the Knicks’ 10, while their East River rival scored 19 points off of those miscues.

The Nets were outscored 26-3 in second-chance points and 18-5 in fast-break points.

Cam Thomas, who had a team-high 19 points, admitted he was at a loss for words about the continuous late-game losses.

“A little bit of both, I guess,” he said when asked whether the fourth-quarter fallings were due to a lack of “competitive stamina” as Ollie suggested or something else. “I don’t know. I don’t really have an answer for that.”

Cam Johnson suggested the team needs to be “a little more connected” and have “a little bit more trust in each other.”

Maybe it’s an overall looming feeling in the midst of what has been a season of struggles.

Ollie, under whom the Nets are 5-12, admitted he is not sure why the game’s basic details have been hard to grasp.

The Nets dropped to 5-12 since Kevin Ollie took over as their interim head coach. USA TODAY Sports

Despite what he has observed, the coach isn’t backing down from finding an answer within the locker room for the time that remains with him in the head coach’s role.

Ollie is likely to be replaced following the season.

“I’m gonna keep coaching. We can’t make no trades, we don’t want to trade nobody, can’t do it. This is the group we have, and they’re gonna do it these next 11 games. I told you, they got everything to play for,” he said. “Don’t go in the locker room and get in a pity party saying you don’t have nothing to play for. You got everything to play for. You got your pride to play for, and that’s my message to them, and I’m gonna keep coaching ’em, and I’m not gonna run away from responsibility.”

The Nets fought to tie the score at 80 against the Knicks in the closing quarter, but went ice cold for almost four minutes, missing 11 straight shots, before then going over eight minutes without a basket.

The Knicks outscored the Nets 25-16 in the fourth quarter.

The Nets have 11 games left to turn such moments into something positive or with some improvement.

The next opportunity comes against the similarly struggling Raptors (23-48) on Monday night.

Toronto is in the midst of 10-game losing streak and is in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, just below the Nets.

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