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Nets offensive struggles leads to loss vs. Zion Williamson, Pelicans

NEW YORK — Mikal Bridges, back at Barclays Center for the first time since March 5, started 2-of-4 from deep against the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday — which was a positive sign for him given how much he has struggled offensively in recent games.

The 27-year-old forward is viewed as the Nets’ best all-around player, and when he starts a game confidently and in rhythm, it usually bodes well for the team’s offense. Unfortunately, it was not that kind of night for Brooklyn.

Bridges had six early points, but his teammates did not make a basket until the 5:33 mark of the first quarter. While Cam Thomas wound up having a decent offensive game with 25 points on 8-of-19 shooting, the Nets shot just 36.9% in their 104-91 loss and committed 14 turnovers, which led to 17 points for New Orleans. Bridges finished just 4-of-11 from the field after his promising start and the team went 12-of-40 from 3-point range.

A six-point deficit for the Nets ballooned to 19 points by halftime because of cold shooting and their inability to get consistent stops. An early third-quarter push, capped off by five straight points from Thomas, made it an 11-point game with 8:56 left in the period. But the Pelicans settled down and outscored the home team 17-12 from that point on to take an 85-69 advantage into the final frame.

Zion Williamson scored 12 of his game-high 28 points in the fourth quarter to help put the game to bed — including a ridiculous alley-oop finish set up by an untimely Thomas turnover and a well-timed pass from Naji Marshall.

With 7:43 left in regulation and the Nets trailing by 19 points, fans inside Barclays Center collectively started doing the wave — likely out of sheer boredom for lack of an entertaining on-court product. Interim head coach Kevin Ollie waved the white flag and emptied his bench with 4:38 left.

The Nets (26-43) have now lost four straight games since March 10th’s win at Cleveland and have fallen 4.5 games behind the Atlanta Hawks for 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings. The Pelicans, who have won seven of nine, shot 50.6% in their 42nd win of the season, outscored the Nets 52-32 in the paint and capitalized on their weak rebounding (plus-6) with 19 second-chance points.

Brooklyn’s largest lead Tuesday night was one point.

The Nets will begin a four-game road trip on Thursday against the Milwaukee Bucks.