clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

3 Takeaways from Brooklyn Nets latest stinker in loss to Miami Heat

Collin examines the other times Jacque Vaughn had a timeout in his pocket during close games ... and how it affected things.

Miami Heat v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Groundhog Day came a few weeks early for the Brooklyn Nets. I’m not talking about the celebrated spring vs winter forecast performed every year by the world’s furriest weatherman. I’m thinking more like the second act of the rom-com where Bill Murray gets stuck reliving the same day over and over again.

But for the Nets, they’re not rambling around Pennsylvania on repeat. In fact, they were playing on the other side of the world no less than a week ago. What’s constant is much worse than the setting of a middle-class town — it’s losing, losing in a disheartening and frustrating manner to be exact.

Brooklyn fell to the Miami Heat last night by a 96-95 score. Contrary to what those numbers imply, the game went into overtime. Still, neither team managed to crack triple digits amidst a frigid shooting performance by both sides.

It was ugly, to say the least. Breaking this one down will be like doing a plot analysis of any Adam Sandler movie made between in early-to-mid 2010s. If you sat through Jack and Jill, this one’s for you.

Jacque Vaughn Sticks to His Guns Late

After he chose not to challenge a late foul on Dennis Smith Jr. and preserve a timeout that was never used, last night saw Jacque Vaughn’s most glaring late-game chess move prove faulty. After Jimmy Butler sank his free throws to give Miami a lead, Mikal Bridges ran the floor with roughly five seconds left to hoist up a shot. The Heat had him well covered and forced an air-ball.

But this wasn’t the first time Vaughn left the arena with a timeout in his pocket. The Nets did the same thing vs the Charlotte Hornets on November 30 which resulted in a missed Cam Johnson game winner at the buzzer. A few games after that, he did it again vs the Atlanta Hawks, though Mikal Bridges hit that shot and Brooklyn won the game.

Now in Brooklyn’s last three games that have come down to one shot, Vaughn has decided to play with the guys on the floor rather than call a timeout and draw something up. For better or worse, he seems committed to this strategy.

Given Brooklyn’s woes at the offensive end, being the league’s worst 3-point and third-worst overall shooting percentage team in their last 15 games, this choice is questionable. Why would you ride with that, when you could take some time to help them out and cook something up? Brooklyn losing last night via this strategy does not help its case either.

Regardless, there’s a pattern here, and whether or not Vaughn goes down this route again despite the mixed results will add another interesting layer to the game the next time the Nets find themselves with the ball in crunch time.

Yes, the Shooting Really is That Bad

The Nets shot under 40% from the field again last night. It was the fourth time they’ve done that in their last 13 games. Mind you, that’s a target most teams in today’s league strive for in their shooting from deep.

For as questionable as Brooklyn’s coaching decisions have been of late, such as their defensive sets, rotations, and now clock management, the players on the court have been equally responsible for this team falling off the Brooklyn Bridge.

Mikal Bridges, a guy with career 49/37 splits, is shooting 39/29 in his past 15 games. Spencer Dinwiddie, who has 41/33 career splits, is shooting 35/27 in his past 15 games as well. Even Dorian Finney-Smith, who came out this season hotter than fish grease, has 33/34 splits in the same time frame.

There are too many players on this team whose percentages from the field look like those of someone shooting it from three. Meanwhile, their 3-point percentages look like someone’s batting averages. Yes, this team already has me thinking about the Yankees and Mets.

But what’s most alarming is Brooklyn’s made clanking shots off the iron a habit even without much defense, especially from three. Per Erik Slater’s research, the Nets have generated the seventh most open threes in their past eight games, but are shooting dead last in such attempts.

Anyone who watches the Nets knows it’s been a brick fest for some time now. Their improved defense has coated that of late, especially last night holding Miami to just 37.9 percent from the field. But at the end of the day, it’s an offensive game, and the numbers make it clear the Nets are just not coming to play.

Lineup Changes May be on the Way

With the numbers above playing a factor, Brooklyn’s starting unit did not get it done last night. Of all the lineups Brooklyn fielded vs Miami, their starting unit of Dinwiddie, Bridges, Finney-Smith, Cameron Johnson, and Nic Claxton posted the worst plus/minus at -9.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn’s bench outscored Miami’s 46-18. Royce O’Neale had a sneaky 5-10 3-point shooting night where he also dished out five assists, grabbed nine rebounds, and rejected a shot. He reminded us of his habit of draining buckets in the clutch as well.

Although Cam Thomas’s efficiency dipped as the game went on, he carried Brooklyn’s offense in the first quarter after coming off the bench. Policing things at the other end, Dennis Smith Jr. finished with a season-high four steals.

We’ve seen Brooklyn’s bench outperform the starters before. It’s an odd byproduct of having such a deep team. But amidst those outings, Vaughn has stood by the Dinwiddie, Johnson, Bridges, and Claxton quadrant when healthy all year. He even did so last season with Cam Thomas dropping 40 balls like handouts on the street.

Regardless, I’m here to tell you I think even he’s running out of slack to give those guys.

Not only was there a stark comparison between the bench unit and the starting unit in terms of production last night, but Vaughn also spoke about how minute distribution is “performance based” when asked about his decision to roll with Smith Jr. down the stretch rather than Dinwiddie.

“I’ve always talked about this being performance based,” said Vaughn. “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.”

While I’d argue Vaughn hasn’t always followed that mantra, him verbalizing it right after the starters got stuck in the mud again suggests we get could a new opening five soon. His play doesn’t warrant a start, but I suspect Brooklyn will continue to start Dinwiddie if they plan to trade him at the deadline. However, Finney-Smith would be my next guess in a swap out for O’Neale or Thomas.