In the compact Eastern Conference standings, where climbing to second place is just as possible as falling to eighth, every game matters.

The Nets forgot that last night.

The Nets wasted strong performances from their big three of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez — who combined to score 66 points and shoot over 60 percent from the field — when their supporting cast missed shot after shot and they played little or no defense as the 76ers came away with a 106-97 win in front of 16,789 at Wells Fargo Center.

“This is a tough pill to swallow,” said Reggie Evans, who finished with nine points and 11 rebounds. “No disrespect to them, but this is a tough pill to swallow.”

It should be. The Sixers (24-39), one of the NBA’s worst teams in recent weeks, had been on a five-game losing streak and had lost 12 of their last 13 games. In short, it was the kind of game a team such as the Nets, who are trying to secure at least a top-four seed in the East, needs to win.

But after the Nets (37-27) jumped out to a 28-24 lead following the first quarter thanks to 14 points from Brook Lopez, the Sixers shot an astronomical 23-for-37 (62 percent) from the field across the second and third quarters, taking the lead early in the second and never giving it back.

“I just think they wanted the game a little more than us tonight,” said Williams, who was terrific in the loss, finishing with 27 points, six rebounds, 13 assists and just one turnover. “We did come out pretty well, and they took back control of the game. We were kind of fighting uphill the whole night, trying to take the lead back and battle back and they would go on a run. They just played really well tonight.”

The Sixers, led by Spencer Hawes, who had 24 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, Jrue Holiday, who had 15 points and 11 assists and Thaddeus Young, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds, did play well, but the Nets’ defense was awful.