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Heat stay hot, Nets stay cold: 104-96

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Miami Heat Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Following Saturday’s 129-109 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kenny Atkinson hoped to fix the lineups and find guys that wanted to play defense.

"We’ve got to find the guys that want to defend and distribute the minutes proportionately, appropriately. I think that’s where we are. I think we’ve had a streak here where we’re not defending. That’s not acceptable. That’s not the type of program we’re trying to run."

He wasn’t lying. After Monday's loss, the Nets have allowed more than 100 points in 24 consecutive contests dating back to December 14.  They’ve allowed 100 or more in 45 of 48 games this season. In the prior five games they’ve allowed teams to score 117.2 points per game.

To add salt into the wound, they finished the month of January 1-15.

And so, it just didn’t happen ... again. The Nets surrendered 104 points in a, 104-96, loss to the NBA’s hottest team in the Miami Heat (19-30). The Heat have won eight straight, while the Nets (9-39) have lost six straight and 22 of the last 24. They’re also 2-22 on the road.

The Nets played good defense for about 16 minutes. Then, they were exposed. What started off as a 7-0 run in the second quarter, extended to a 17-2 run, and then later 28-4 in the third quarter.

They made a game of it in the fourth quarter, but in the final two minutes they turned the ball over three times and were held scoreless from the two-minute mark up until the 28-second mark when the game was already over.

It was the same stuff, just a different night.

You could tell the Nets increased their defensive intensity in the first half, but sometimes the results just don’t show for it. Behind the young reserves, namely Isaiah Whitehead, Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, the Nets found their largest lead of the half at 11 following a 7-0 run in the second quarter.

It all looked fine and dandy, as per usual…

And then, the starters came back in.

Miami closed out the half with a 17-2 run and took a 56-52 lead at the break. The 17-point outburst was done in the final four minutes when Brooklyn’s starters were re-inserted. Dion Waiters was cooking yet again (15 points) and the Heat gained all all the momentum heading into the second half.

The Heat carried that momentum and used it to go on a 10-2 run and pickup their largest lead of the night at 12. It was a 10-2 run and a 28-4 extended run (!) The Nets’ horrid defense was exposed.

Luckily for Brooklyn, Whitehead was anchoring the team and hit some big shots to keep this one within reach. After three quarters Whitehead had 13 points, five assists and zero turnovers.

The Nets trailed by seven entering the fourth and cut it down to four with two minutes remaining, but the Heat answered with a mini 5-0 run and led by nine with 45 seconds left. James Johnson put the dagger home in very dramatic fashion.

In the final two minutes, the Nets turned the ball over three times and were held scoreless from the two-minute mark up until the 28-second mark when the game was already over.

Surprisingly, the defense held strong in the fourth (20 points) but the offense struggled mightily and ultimately let them down (19 points).

Brooklyn's leaders: Bojan Bogdanovic 16 points and eight rebounds; Trevor Booker 13 points and eight rebounds; Brook Lopez 14 points on 5-of-17 shooting. He scored eight of the 14 in the first quarter. Off the bench, Isaiah Whithead continued to impress with 13 points, five assists and one blocked shot. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson grabbed 11 rebounds in 22 minutes.

Miami's leaders: Goran Dragic 20 points and eight assists; Dion Waiters 20 points and nine assists.

The Nets out-rebounded Miami 53-34 and out-scored them 58-40 inside the paint. Miami was over the foul limit early in the fourth quarter, but the Nets insisted on taking 3-pointers where they shot 4-of-26 on the night. Late-game execution has been an issue.

Next up: New York Knicks @ home, Wednesday.