The Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat, and Mother Nature were on the same page tonight. While snow started to befall upon the Barclay’s Center around the fourth quarter this evening — bringing a wintry feel to this MLK Day affair — both teams kept it equally as cold inside the arena.
But while this evening’s storm threatens to give the New York Metropolitan area its first legitimate snowfall in over a year, icy shooting has been common amongst the Nets for some time now. With 34/22 splits tonight, it was their second game shooting under 40% in the new year. The Heat were close by, putting up 38/26 splits.
But in the end, it was more than just bad shooting. Jacque Vaughn became the goat when he failed to push the green light on what many thought was a winnable challenge off a Dennis Smith Jr. personal to preserve a timeout, then inexplicitly didn’t use it.
It was a game where I couldn’t help but feel bad for the NBA intern over in Secaucus who had to dig through the tape of this one to try and cut up a highlight reel. I also couldn’t help but feel bad for the fans, who watched it all boil into another loss for the Nets in overtime, making it their 14th game dropped in their last 18 tries.
Final : Miami Heat 96, Brooklyn Nets 95
The Nets started slow, much like they have all season. Inefficient shooting became a clear theme early on with Brooklyn posting 38/21 splits in the first quarter.
Cam Thomas, who came off the bench and went 4-of-5 from the field and 1-of-2 from three during the frame, saved those figures from bleeding even further red. Thomas’s efficiency eventually dipped, as he finished the game with 23 point on 7-20 shooting from the field. The Nets are now 1-9 when Thomas comes off the bench this year.
When asked postgame about whether or not he’s getting a feel for how the rotations since coming off the bench, Thomas answered simply said, “No.”
“I mean it could change, but I’m just doing my job, so no” he added after a long pause. “I’m just doing what I need to do when I get out there to produce. I don’t really have no comfortability coming off the bench or starting, so whatever you want me to do that’s what I’m going to do.
Brian Lewis followed up with Thomas after the presser where Thomas mentioned that his answer meant that he was not complacent in his role.
Just spoke to Cam Thomas. He clarified that by “no comfortability” with his role he meant he’s not complacent.— Brian Lewis (@NYPost_Lewis) January 16, 2024
Regardless, Thomas was an early breath of fresh air for a Nets offense that was suffocating without the rim penetration needed to open things up for their wings. Then, the team got some oxygen in its system and came to life.
The cure to any stagnant offense is getting out in transition and the Nets discovered that about halfway through the opening period. Prying at the ball any chance they could, Brooklyn forced four Miami turnovers during the first quarter which led to nine transition points. That, and Miami shooting just 35% from the field themselves, helped Brooklyn carve out a 22-16 first quarter lead.
But the Nets put pressure on Miami from buzzer to buzzer with Dorian Finney-Smith and Dennis Smith Jr. leading the charge. One of Brooklyn’s most versatile players and a coveted glue guy by seemingly half the league, DFS got after it especially in the first half while tonight guarding multiple Miami players.
Nice recovery and strip from Dorian Finney-Smith on the switch against Bam Adebayo.— Erik Slater (@erikslater_) January 16, 2024
Leads to a very pretty transition take from Mikal Bridges. pic.twitter.com/10tD4E41C5
Smith Jr. also finished with a team high four steals. He also added eight points and pulled down five rebounds, finishing the game instead of Spencer Dinwiddie for the third straight game. Dinwiddie finished with just three points while shooting 1-6 from the field.
“I’ve always talked about this being performance based,” said Vaughn when asked about Dinwiddie’s play of late. “So I thought tonight Dennis had a good attack for us defensively and we’re just in a position right now where you have to perform and that’s across the board. That’s a challenge to the entire group, from the beginning of the game to the end: to be locked in and to give everything you have on both ends of the floor.”
“That’s just what we are as a team,” he later added. “We’re gonna put guys out there who are going to perform and it’s going to make tough decisions on me to finish the game. That’s just a part of it. So hopefully that encourages our guys to be ready to go at the beginning of the game and play four quarters.”
Brooklyn rolling with the switch on defense played a large role in this one becoming a rock fight. The Nets kept a hand in just about every ball-handler’s face after a screen came. It worked well early on, as the teams usually sacrifice positioning for the rebound when implementing the switch, but Brooklyn’s hustle prevailed with the team winning on the glass at the half 31-23. It was a perfect defensive recipe and one that was necessary for the Nets to hold a lead for as long as they did.
Miami then delivered the hit you were waiting for during the entire first half. They jumped out with a 21-7 run to seize a lead in the third quarter. Not even the annoyance of getting whistled for a flopping technical foul could stop Jimmy Butler, who came out of halftime with a clear intent to get to the rim more often.
Miami brought their long range artillery out of the tunnel with them this time as well. They shot 5-of-7 from deep in the frame. While it wasn’t enough to raise their overall splits to respectable levels, it was enough for them to jump Brooklyn on the scoreboard for a few minutes down the stretch of the third.
While Butler came to life in that period, it was Adebayo and infamous “almost Net” from the summer Tyler Herro who played Frankenstein early in the fourth, terrorizing the Nets.
Adebayo set the tone early with some tough buckets inside. He won the battle of DPOY hopefuls vs Nic Claxton tonight, finishing with a whopping 20 rebounds and 11 points, a few of which came directly against Claxton in the fourth.
Butler checked back in around halfway through the final frame. His ability to get the rim returned with him and although some timely shots from the Nets in the fourth kept them in it, the ease at which Butler generated looks for himself and others by probing inside made winning an uphill battle which the Nets didn’t have the ammunition for.
However, Cam Thomas and Mikal Bridges still came out guns in hand. Thomas almost willed the Nets to a win down the stretch of the fourth, drawing free throws on consecutive possessions to give Brooklyn leads with under two minutes to play. But Herro followed that with shots at the other end to retake the lead on both occasions.
Then it was Bridges’s turn. After a missed three from Thomas and then a missed free throw from Adebayo, the Nets trailed 86-88 with five seconds to play. On Brooklyn’s subsequent rebound, he drove to the elbow and drew a foul which was later confirmed after a Miami challenge. He promptly sank both shots. That, plus a missed jumper from Butler right after meant overtime.
Overtime was a snippet of the game at large, as Miami started cold, but the Nets didn’t do enough to put them away. Thomas and O’Neale got the Nets out to an early five points lead. Then after a slew of Heat misses, Herro nailed two big threes to cut into that. Soon after, Jimmy Butler drew a foul that would put Miami ahead and the Nets on the losing side.
Bridges did get a look to potentially win the game after Butler’s shots from the stripe but Miami had it well defended. While that was the play that technically cemented Brooklyn’s loss, the call on Butler beforehand which Vaughn neglected to challenge seemed to draw some responsibility as well.
“I got a chance to look at it real quickly during the game,” said Vaughn. “I just felt they weren’t going to overturn that. We felt Dennis had his left arm wrapped around the backside of the driver. I didn’t think using the timeout they were going to overturn that call.”
“11 Seconds on the clock, we have shooters on the floor, great opportunity for them not to sub,” Vaughn added after being asked why he didn’t use the saved timeout. “They kept Herro in the game. We tried to attack him and turn the corner. Really good defense by Jimmy Butler. We got a shooter spotted up in the left corner, Royce is pealing at the top, and Cam Thomas is over in the right corner. I don’t think I’d be able to draw anything up better than that.”
More than one NBA pundit, along with many fans, found Vaughn’s explanation incredulous, including Bernie Lee, Ben Simmons agent...
This is such an incredible answer. https://t.co/HL9hZsuMQe— Bernard Lee (@BernieoLee) January 16, 2024
He wasn’t alone. Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer...
This would make sense if he actually used his timeout after. But he didn't. Such a strange decision. https://t.co/2CdlqDNxAB— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) January 16, 2024
Brian Mahoney of the AP...
Bad finish for the Nets. Could have challenged the late foul against Butler, should have taken a timeout after to set up a possession that had a chance. Heat win in OT.— Brian Mahoney (@briancmahoney) January 16, 2024
John Hollinger of The Athletic...
Didn't challenge and also didn't use last TO immediately after. Heat win, 96-95. https://t.co/gJJuOigfcA— John Hollinger (@johnhollinger) January 16, 2024
Update on Long Island
The guys in Brooklyn weren’t the only Nets to take on the chin tonight. Their G-League affiliate in Long Island lost to the Santa Cruz Warriors by a 98-90 score. Despite the loss, it was a standout performance from Noah Clowney, the 21st pick in the 2023 Draft.
The rook finished with 19 points, eight boards, two assists, and two blocks. Two of those points were louder than the rest however. Jacque Vaughn spoke pregame about his potential availability going forward.
“We’ve definitely talked about it,” said Vaughn when asked if Clowney might get called up while Sharpe recovers. “I get a chance to watch his minutes and they’re graded every single game. I watched his last probably three games this morning. So definitely keep a close eye on what he’s doing. It’s something we organizationally have talked about, having Noah at some point join us.
- The Nets wound up missing 43 3-pointers, a franchise record beating the previous mark from 2018.
- Mikal Bridges (26 points, nine rebounds, six assists) recorded his eighth 20/5/5 game this season. He had six prior to this season (all in 2022-23).
- The game is the first overtime game in nearly 5 years in which neither team scored 100 points.
- The Heat’s OT comeback from five points was the largest in 12 years.
Nets after dark returns later this week with the team embarking on another Western Conference road trip. The Portland Trail Blazers will welcome the team to its third time zone in as many games with a Wednesday evening matchup at 10 p.m. by our clocks.
The last time Brooklyn met with the Blazers it resulted in perhaps their worst loss of the season, although the competition pool for that seems to be growing week by week. The Nets will look to avenge their 134-127 overtime loss to Rip City, who stand at 10-29 on the season.
As expected, Ben Simmons will join the team on the trip continuing his ramp-up.
- Box Score: Miami Heat 96, Brooklyn Nets 95 (OT) - NBA
- Game Highlights: Miami Heat 96, Brooklyn Nets 95 (Video) - NBA
- Highlights: Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro combined for 60 points (Video)
- Jacque Vaughn: Postgame vs. Heat (Video) - Brooklyn Nets
- Mikal Bridges: Postgame vs. Heat (Video) - Brooklyn Nets
- Cam Thomas: Postgame vs. Heat (Video) - Brooklyn Nets
- Butler scores 31 points in return, including two late free throws in OT as Heat beat Nets 96-95 - Pat Pickens - AP
- Jimmy Butler returns to guide Heat past Nets in OT - Reuters
- Jimmy Butler returns as Miami Heat top Brooklyn Nets - Tim Bontemps - ESPN
- Nets’ strong defense craters in second half during overtime loss to Heat - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Slumping Spencer Dinwiddie has minutes cut in latest Nets loss - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Jimmy Butler’s clutch free throws sink Cam Thomas, Nets as Heat narrow out victory ($) - C.J. Holmes - New York Daily News
- Nets 1st-round pick Noah Clowney will likely stay put on Long Island despite thin frontcourt ($) - C.J. Holmes - New York Daily News
- Nets coach Jacques Vaughn honored to play on MLK Day ($) - Denis P. Gorman - Newsday
- Nets can’t keep up with Heat in second half, lose in OT for third straight defeat - Denis P. Gorman - Newsday
- A Trade For Murray Not The Answer To The Nets’ Woes - Steve Lichtenstein - Steve’s Newsletter
- Takeaways and details from Heat’s overtime win over Nets in Jimmy Butler’s return ($) - Anthony Chiang - Miami Herald