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The undermanned Nets were playing hard, with effort. And against the Denver Nuggets, surprisingly, with success. Still, the Meadowlands was dead. Then a group of fans in the corner opposite the Nets bench exploded: The Yankees had gone ahead of the Phillies in World Series Game 6 in The Bronx. An announcement followed and the crowd got into it - so did the Nets , who kept a lead to halftime.

Then something awful happened.

The game continued.

So one of the Nets' early-season banes - the third quarter - arrived and with it, a complete demise as the Nets equaled the worst start, 0-5, in their NBA history. With their starting lineup minus Devin Harris and Yi Jianlian, the Nets , who had 10 players available, hung tough, but they were battered and shredded by a 44-point third quarter as the unbeaten Nuggets produced a 122-94 victory last night.

"Every game we played, I came in here and said we have to come out strong in the third quarter. I didn't this one," said Chris Douglas-Roberts, who led six Nets in double figures with 19 points (but only two after halftime). "I tried to change it, but the same result."

The Nets opened 0-5 in 1996-97 as well and finished that season with a 26-56 record. Twenty-six wins could be mighty tough for this bunch, who gave up over 120 points for the second time in three games.

"It's rough. It's never happened to me before," Brook Lopez (12 points, 8 rebounds) said of the 0-5 start.

Denver's Carmelo Anthony, the NBA's leading scorer, endured a miserable first half (1-of-11) against an often physical Nets defense. But in the third quarter, he scored 11 of his 22 points and Chauncey Billups poured in all 12 of his points - including Denver's first seven in the initial 71 seconds. Nene (16 points, 9 rebounds) made it a 9-0 run for a 59-51 Nuggets lead and the Nets were never heard from again.

The Nets led 51-50 at halftime, but trailed 94-77 entering the fourth.

"In the first half, we couldn't get it going. There aren't many times when Carmelo and myself are off at the same time," Billups said.

It wasn't the third quarter this time, that's certain.

"We can't come out in every third quarter, and basically let the other team do whatever they want," said Eduardo Najera (14 points starting for Yi, his first start since Jan. 15, 2008 when he was with Denver).

Kenyon Martin enjoyed his return to the Swamp with an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double against his former team and rookie Ty Lawson scored 23 for Denver, 5-0 for the first time since 1985-86.

Yi became the fifth player to hit the infirmary for the Nets - the second starter and third rotation player since the season began. An MRI Monday confirmed a right knee sprain. Harris missed his third straight game with a groin strain.

"They said just to rest. It's not too bad. It will probably take about four weeks, maybe five, maybe three," Yi said, noting he can't do anything just yet - even a stationary bike is a few days away.

Nets general manager Kiki Vandeweghe has watched Harris and Jarvis Hayes (hamstring) also get hurt since the season began, joining Keyon Dooling and Tony Battie, who were out in preseason, but it's nothing new.

"Having been in this for a long time, I've seen this happen," Vandeweghe said. "It seems to happen in groups and bunches, and maybe we just get them all out of the way at the beginning."


Dooling (hip) again went through shootaround and still aims for a Thanksgiving week return. "No setbacks," he said. "Shootarounds are easier than my rehab."

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