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Brooklyn Nets defeat Miami Heat, 107-104, end preseason 2-2

A win is a win even in preseason. The Nets faced a short-handed Heat squad and did what they wanted to do: win.

NBA: Preseason-Brooklyn Nets at Miami Heat Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

A win is a win, even in preseason. The Nets beat the Heat, 107-104, in Miami, ending their preseason with a 2-2 record. but once again, they had to deal with some of the same issues that hurt them in the first three days: primarily sloppy offense and lackadaisical defense early. Still, they held their own, and came away with their first win over NBA competition, having previously lost to the Lakers and 76ers.

There were a number of positives: the Nets who turned the ball over 27 times vs. Philly, had only 13 turnovers vs. Miami. As a team, they shot 39.5% from deep and although for the fourth straight game, they gave up a lot of points early in the first half, they once again tightened things up in the second.

Their defense seemed to get untracked even if the competition wasn’t what you would expect from the Heat, what with most of the lineup either resting or playing minor minutes. They had nine blocks and held Miami to 42.3% shooting, 34.3% (11-of-32) from behind the arc. Brooklyn also forced the Heat into 13 turnovers in the second half.

“Yeah, that’s a big part of the second half is kind of how we want to play,” Jacque Vaughn said post-game. “I think you saw we were much more aggressive, and you could see that and just the activity level — whether it was deflections in the second half.

“I think overall, we have the ability to play with a [edge] and be physical as a team and aggressive, but smart also at the same time. And I thought we did that in the second half and a big part of that was deflections and activity.”

The biggest positive, however, may have been the play of Day’Ron Sharpe who finished with a double-double in 21 minutes, racking up 19 points, 11 boards — four of them offensive, three blocks and two steals. He even hit a 3-pointer. Another positive was Lonnie Walker IV who led the team with 22 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including 4-of-7 from deep in 25 minutes off the bench. Four other Nets also broke double figures: Cam Thomas had 14 points, but shot only 3-of-14, 1-of-4 from beyond the arc; while Mikal Bridges and Dorian Finney-Smith each had 11. Bridges shot poorly on the night, but DFS hit three 3-pointers in four attempts, his best performance on the night.

The Heat didn’t play Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry or Tyler Herro at all and Bam Adebayo didn’t play in the second half. Also, Josh Richardson left early with a right foot injury and didn’t return. That said, the Heat started off strong. going up by double digits early as the Nets once again couldn’t get things going offensively. With 3:39 left in the first, Brooklyn was down 22-9, then 27-11 with 3:10 left. the game’s biggest deficit for either team. Miami had some early success pressuring Ben Simmons and shots weren’t falling. The Nets did fight back and with no time left on the clock to end the quarter. Spencer Dinwiddie threw up a shot from half court, shrinking the Heat lead to five going into the second.

The Nets played better in the second, but powered by Adebayo, the Heat took a 59-58 lead into halftime. Then, with Adebayo joining Butler, Lowry, Robinson and Herro on the bench the Nets got a chance to drive the pace and outscored the Heat, 21-18 in the third, setting things up for the close.

After some early more back-and-forth in the final stanza, the Nets built up a nine-point lead with 6:59 left after Sharpe putback off a Thomas 3-point attempt. Indeed, the 6’10” Sharpe was everywhere in the second half, as Nets Twitter noted...

Then, it was the Heat bench squad who pushed things. Dru Smith, who the Nets signed to a two-way deal last season; Brookyn’s own Justin Champagnie and the Heat’s latest find, Cole Swider powered the comeback, taking the Heat’s last lead, 100-99, with two minutes left.

Sharpe and Walker both hit threes and from then on, it was a case of the Nets trying to gut it out which they did, helped by Sharpe’s two made free throws with 14 seconds left. Swider missed a buzzer beater that would have sent the game into OT.

Key to the Nets holding on was a successful challenge of a call with six seconds left. After refs charged Sharpe a personal foul against Nikola Jovic, Vaughn asked for a review. The call was reversed. Instead of the Heat getting three shots at the line, Sharpe and Orlando Robinson jumped it up at center court.

“So, very impressed with that young man. He’s put in the work and to be accountable to step up and shoot two free throws, whether it’s preseason, regular season, there was still some pressure on the line,” said Vaughn post-game. “So reward his work, and happy for him.”

“Personally, I just feel like last year I did the same thing during preseason. I don’t know about training camp, but in preseason I did the same thing,” said Sharpe. “So I’m glad I played good, but at the end of the day, I’ve got to do that [crap] during the season. So right now, I’m ready for the season to start so I can just show people I can do it during the season, too. Preseason really doesn’t matter.”

While the Nets bench played well, the starters had issues. Following a solid, highlight-filled game vs. Philly, Simmons couldn’t seem to get untracked and didn’t play with anything near the panache he had displayed two nights earlier. He finished with only two points — both on free throws — while missing all four of his shots. He also added four more turnovers, giving him 12 in the last two games.

Bridges, who didn’t play vs. the Sixers, started off slowly as well and although he wound up in double figures, he was only 5-of-14 for the game and only 1-of-5 from deep. Again, it is only preseason and Vaughn admitted the team has yet to put in plays specifically for Bridges.

“I think we’ll use this time from here to the first game to get some sets in that put Mikal in positions to be successful,” said the head coach. “But really, that was the strategy. We’ve got to learn how to play with Nic and Ben in the spacing, concept basketball, how to play with each other for each other, how to get each other open. So that’s been really the emphasis so far, which has been good to see.”

Cam Johnson was in street clothes but Jacque Vaughn said the 6’8” forward would test out his strained hamstring on Saturday, the next time the Nets practice.

Final Exhibit 10 signings

Post-game, the Nets signed Patrick Gardner, the 6’11” Marist big who played for the Egyptian national team, and Kennedy Chandler, the 6’0” Memphis point guard who started at the point for the Nets Summer League team. Expect both to be waived and their rights assigned to Long Island in the next few days.

That makes eight players who the Nets have moved through Exhibit 10 signings. Previously, Brooklyn signed, waived and assigned Jordan Hall, Keifer Sykes, Kyler Edwards, Scottie Lindsey, Kameron Hankerson and Trey McGowens.

Next Up

The Nets travel Thursday and are off Friday. They resume practicing Saturday, then next Wednesday, they face the Cavaliers at Barclays Center, the first regular season game of the 2023-24 season. Off-Season is over, Pre-season is over. Now, it’s on to the real season.