Dorian Finney-Smith mentioned one phrase: “oof.”
Joe Harris took a deep breath.
Mikal Bridges mentioned he didn’t have a solution for the query.
By the two:30 mark of the fourth quarter of Thursday’s matchup in opposition to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Nets felt they’d deserved to win.
And by the point the clock struck 0.7 — after Donovan Mitchell rebounded his personal missed free throw, and the ball miraculously discovered Cavs’ guard Isaac Okoro wide-open for the game-winning three — the Nets formally discovered themselves in play-in match territory.
The Nets led by 10 with 6:19 to go within the fourth quarter and held an eight-point lead with simply over two minutes left. They folded below a collection of turnovers that gave the Cavs straightforward offense in transition, wiping away what the crew felt was 45 minutes of excellent basketball.
“I felt like we deserved to win that game because we did a lot of good things throughout the course of the night. Now we have to let that game go and be able to emotionally gather ourselves and try to win a ball game in Miami,” head coach Jacque Vaughn mentioned after the loss. “I tell them: A lot of times in defeat, you learn who the hell you are. So this is an opportunity for us to learn who we are.”
Cleveland went on a 12-2 run within the closing 2:13 handy the Nets their fifth straight loss, none extra debilitating than a come-from-behind, last-second rally that shocked the Nets within the crew’s hardest defeat because the commerce deadline.
The Nets wakened Friday morning not homeowners of a assured playoff spot. They fell under the Miami Heat to seventh within the Eastern Conference with a date in opposition to the Heat on the street on Saturday — adopted by the second leg of a street back-to-back in Orlando in opposition to a Magic crew that initiatives as a nightmare matchup with 5 key rotation gamers listed 6-10 or taller.
“I felt like we should have won this game and we were in control of the game for the majority of the 48 minutes,” mentioned Harris, who notched his 1,000th profession three with 5 made off the bench in opposition to the Cavs on Thursday. “You have a tough loss so everybody’s feeling that, but at the same time, we have a big game coming up against Miami and in Orlando, so the focus is now shifted to that.”
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It was nearly predictable, the way in which all of it unfolded.
That’s as a result of the Nets’ lead by no means actually felt protected. Not at double-digits halfway by means of the ultimate interval, and definitely not because the Cavs started gaining momentum because the clock wound down.
And by the point the ball reached Okoro, with Nic Claxton’s close-out delayed by a baseline display, the complete area knew the Nets had been going to lose.
Crunch-time offense has been the largest space of concern for a corporation that traded two of the perfect within the enterprise in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Bridges and Spencer Dinwiddie have placed on these sneakers earlier than — but it surely’s completely different while you’re the principle attraction.
Dinwiddie, for instance, performed a near-perfect recreation by means of the primary three quarters. He had prolonged a streak that now contains 5 points-assists double-doubles in his final seven video games. He completed the evening with 25 factors and 12 assists, making 9 of his 15 pictures on the evening, none extra necessary than when he blew by Jarrett Allen for a high-arcing layup that put the Nets up, 114-110, with solely 29 seconds left.
His three worst performs, nevertheless, got here because the Cavs made their late-game run.
Dinwiddie shot a contested side-step two over the 6-11 Evan Mobley that bounced off the rim. Claxton grabbed the offensive rebound and gave the ball to Bridges, who drove the lane then threw a nasty go that was intercepted by Caris LeVert, who scored in transition.
The following possession, Dinwiddie blew by Allen for a straightforward layup on the rim — however turned down the look and rifled a go to the nook, the place solely a Cavs defender was ready.
And two possessions later, when the Cavs trapped him within the backcourt, Dinwiddie launched a go up court docket to Finney-Smith, whose momentum was carrying him out of bounds.
Finney-Smith threw a backwards one-handed go to Bridges, however the ball went by means of his palms and ended up in Mitchell’s.
He received to the road for 2 free throws and made the primary.
Then he missed the second, received his personal rebound and received his put-back try blocked, a collection of occasions that led to LeVert rifling a cross-court go to Okoro, wide-open for the win.
“I could have not turned the ball over. I could have got offensive rebound on the free throw,” Finney-Smith mentioned. “We played what 23 minutes good? But they executed at the end of the game.”
“When you’re getting trapped, you’re supposed to have a couple guys flash to the ball. It was a little bit delayed, so sometimes you try to throw a guy open,” Dinwiddie added. “In hindsight, I should’ve just called a timeout. I accept full responsibility for that. That’s not on Doe, that’s on me. He hadn’t been in the game, so it’s not on him.”
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Now it’s time for a actuality test: The Nets are 5-10 because the NBA All-Star break and are simply 8-14 since Irving’s closing recreation as a Net earlier than he blindsided the group with a commerce request.
They have misplaced 5 video games in a row, none tougher to abdomen than the loss they felt was a win — a defeat that despatched them out of safe playoff standing and into sudden-death play-in match territory.
Thursday’s loss to the Cavaliers is an embodiment of why the Nets ought to keep away from the Play-In in any respect prices. Bridges has the instruments to be particular, and Dinwiddie is having fun with top-of-the-line stretches of his profession — however neither can be thought-about the perfect participant on the ground in a Play-In Tournament recreation.
Mitchell has been the perfect participant in Brooklyn two video games in a row.
Brooklyn’s projected play-in match opponents share the identical luxurious: If the Nets draw the Hawks, it’s Trae Young, who hit a game-winning floater after the Nets got here again from down 18 to lose in Atlanta. Against the Bulls, it’s Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan. Even the Raptors have an NBA champion and perennial All-Star in Pascal Siakam.
Vaughn is doing his finest to stop his crew from trying that far down the street. But the top of this season may mirror the top of Thursday’s loss to the Cavaliers — promising for 3 quarters earlier than all of it falls aside on the finish.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” mentioned Harris. “But I think collectively across the board, we’re obviously aware of where we sit in the standings and the importance of every game here down the stretch.”
“At the top of the day, we’ve been in each recreation, so there’s positives to take, Dinwiddie added. “Obviously you need outcomes. We’re making an attempt to do that at an accelerated tempo. We’re principally in coaching camp for this group. If you’re a seasoned crew, the flash most likely occurs, bang, bang, everyone simply breaks it: increase, increase.