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Brooklyn Nets Lose to Miami Heat 122-115 To End Win Streak vs Reigning ECF Champs

Sometimes, injuries take a toll and Thursday night was one of them as Nets could never get over the hump in Miami.

Brooklyn Nets v Miami Heat Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Even if the Brooklyn Nets were up 10 points, with the ball, and less than a second to play, they would have found a way to give their opponent a lead at the end of a quarter tonight. In what was a prime example of a “you have it until you don’t” occasion, Brooklyn let one slip to the Miami Heat, 122-115, in Miami.

Brooklyn served up a bone dry, choking dish of defense to begin tonight’s contest. The Heat clanked their first seven shots of the game and went just 8-21 from the field during the first quarter. The Nets did especially well as a defensive unit, rotating fast to bottle up the inside-out pressure between Miami’s shooting and Adebayo’s ability to wreak havoc inside.

Bam came into the game averaging 24.6 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game while shooting 53% from the field in his past five contests. The Nets blanketed him as well as they could have, surrendering only 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting.

Nic Claxton played a large part in that, both in the first and especially in the second. He clamped up Adebayo frequently on the block as the Miami big looked was visibly frustrated with him on multiple occasions.

Claxton ended up with 16 points while shooting a perfect 7-7 from the field. Amidst this battle of DPOY candidates, Claxton finished with three blocked shots and a steal. However, Adebayo got the last laugh.

Trendon Watford raised some eyebrows in the opening frame as well. He came in off the bench before Lonnie Walker IV for the first time all season. Wat was instrumental in Brooklyn’s win over the Heat two weeks ago, but only tallied four points tonight.

Regardless, Walker IV still got his, tying Bridges for a team-high 23 points while shooting 9-of-18 from the field. He flushed a few on exceptionally tough looks as well, showing us the Cam Thomas isn’t the only guy on the team who makes you go “how the hell did he do that?”

Walker also offered his gratitude to the Nets and particularly to Jacque Vaughn for an opportunity to show off his offensive game...

Walker IV is now up to 15.7 points per game on 51/46/77 efficiency.

But despite all those positives, the Nets found themselves down on the Heat to close the first period, allowing a late run before the horn and kicking off a trend that would define the night.

Brooklyn gave up a 10-2 burst to Miami in the period’s last two and a half minutes. Between that period, the second, and the third, that advantage would balloon into a +22 mark for Miami during that same final two-and-half minute stretch. In a seven point loss, there’s your game.

Still, the Nets punched back in the second, seizing back the lead as Claxton continued to cause problems. He tallied eight points during the frame, frequently jetting by Miami’s defenders with his patented fake dribble handoff.

But the period’s final few minutes took a knife to Brooklyn’s gut yet again. In that quarter’s final four, the Nets allowed a 14-0 Miami run to relinquish the lead and even inflate Miami’s a bit. Brooklyn got sloppy as their offense began to lose rhythm, leading to a number of turnovers turned breakaway dunks at the other end.

“You can’t have that momentum shift going into halftime,” said Jacque Vaughn postgame. “So that’s something that we need to learn about finishing the half, having the momentum going in your favor and halftime.”

The game still lied within reach at that point, but the unraveling had already started. Brooklyn’s once fortified defense looked a step behind play after play in the second half. Jimmy Butler seemed to put on his “Playoff Jimmy” hat. He finished with 36 points on 12-of-19 shooting, including this game-changing stretch.

Miami’s shooters also woke up. With Butler and Adebayo beginning to create pressure things started to open up. Miami shot it 7-of-15 from deep in the second half compared to 8-20 in the first. Duncan Robinson especially made it rain, going 6-10 from downtown.

All in all, what once looked like it would be defensive box score Brooklyn would want to frame and hang someone in the Barclay’s Center soon became one they’ll want to burn. That Miami burst from deep and the team overall shooting 57.9 percent from the field in the second half pushed their collective field goal percentage for the game up to 51.9 percent — becoming the first team to go above the 50% mark vs the Nets all year.

At the other end, Brooklyn lacked the offensive firepower to keep up minus Simmons and Thomas. The team did not look Claxton’s way as much and without Dinwiddie going God-level like he did vs Orlando, the offense grew stagnant. With Brooklyn being a fast-break dependent team, Miami’s second half shot-making also pumped those breaks.

Cam Johnson, who added 16 points and boasted a team-high +18 tonight dealt with foul trouble all night as well. With your most profitable offensive player handcuffed to the bench and nobody able to pick up the slack — it just wasn’t in the cards.

Outside the starting five, role players Royce O’Neale and Day’Ron Sharpe, who’ve given the Nets good burn over the past few weeks, combined for just seven points while shooting 3-11 from the field. Sharpe was especially outplayed by Miami’s backup big in Kevin Love, who drew multiple charges, rebounded at the offensive end, and helped clog up the paint. That didn’t help either.

With Miami’s win, they avoided what would have been their sixth straight loss to Brooklyn. The New York Post’s Brain Lewis asked Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra about what the Nets are doing that’s given them trouble. He seemed irritated at it to say the least.

“I’m not gonna concede that,” said Spoelstra. “This is just competition. We gotta figure it out. Whether they think they’ve handled us easily or whatever. I don’t know where that’s coming from.”

“You know they’re a good team, you have to respect that,” he then added. “They play fast, they shoot a lot of threes, they’re a very good driving team. You know, we do some things we think we do very well also.”

His resentment for Brooklyn must have boiled down to Miami’s social media team, who had some fun with their final score post, mocking the “Brooklyn way” slogan which the team’s been running with for some time now.

Milestone Watch

Not much going on here tonight.

  • Mikal Bridges is up to a team-high 23 points, six rebounds (averaging a career-best 6.2 rpg) and three assists (averaging a career-best 3.7 apg). Bridges went 9-of-10 from the FT line, the first Net to attempt 10+ free throws since Lonnie Walker IV on November 1, also at Miami (8-of-11).
  • Lonnie Walker IV tallied a team-high 23 points in 26 minutes off the bench. This is Walker IV’s third 20-point game off the bench this season. He’s the third player with three or more 20-point games off the bench, joining Tim Hardaway Jr. (four) and Caris LeVert (three).
  • Dennis Smith Jr. has notched five assists off the bench, his fifth straight game with five-plus dimes off the bench. This is the longest streak for a Nets reserve since Spencer Dinwiddie (six straight) in Dec. 2018 and the longest streak for any player off the bench this season.

Injury Update

Brian Lewis followed up on his reporting on Ben Simmons back issues by revealing more about his conversation with an orthopedist on the point guard’s back and hip issues. Dr. Neel Anand. Anand is on the staff at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where Simmons underwent his spinal surgery in May 2022,

“Absolutely [it’s short term]. One-to-two weeks, he’s fine. He’s back rehabbing. He’ll be back [playing] in three-to-four weeks. Max, six weeks,” Dr. Neel Anand told The Post. “He’ll do rehab and be right back to where it was. “Does he have any more flare-ups? That’s going to be the question. How many more flare-ups is he going to have? That is a bigger question than anything else. And that’s so hard to predict. … Some guys get repeated flare-ups, and others don’t get it, they’re fine. … That’s hard to predict.”

Meanwhile, Mikal Bridges explained the difficulty presented by having either Simmons or Nic Claxton on the court, but never the two of them together.

“Hold it down for (Simmons). If you have Ben out, having Clax (back) makes it so much better,” said Bridges. “It’s tough to have both of them out… Ben’s ridiculous in transition. I can’t even explain it because I can’t play that damn fast, running out there, finding people. It’s just in (Simmons’) DNA, how he plays, it’s a real threat. Happy to have Clax back to help with the screening part… Clax rolling, running to the rim.”

Next Up

Brooklyn’s early run through the Eastern Conference gauntlet continues on Sunday as the Nets will welcome in Joel Embiid and the 76ers. Not counting the preseason, it’ll be their first shot at revenge since Philly swept them out of the postseason last May.

Although Joel Embiid always deserves some attention, Tyrese Maxey is your player to watch on Sunday. The 22-year-old has scored 25 or more in seven of his team’s 12 games so far this year. He dropped 50 on the Indiana Pacers earlier this week and presents a fun task at the point of attack for Mikal Bridges and co.

For a different perspective, head on over to HotHotHoops.