Nets blow 18-point lead against Heat, break thousands of hearts into a thousand little pieces


Final: 01/25/2017

L 106 109

With the Brooklyn Nets well out of playoff contention and their starting lineup getting further shuffled by the game, there’s a distinct necessity to focus in on the so-called “winnable” matchups. Tonight against the Miami Heat, even with their four-game winning streak and recent buzzer-beating win on Monday, this certainly qualified as a game the Nets could come out on top of. As the season gets longer and the injuries get worse, opportunities like Miami become more and more fleeting — could they make this one count?

Prior to tip, the Brook Lopez-Hassan Whiteside matchup loomed large as the likely make-or-break showdown of the night. Would the beefy, rebounding machine neutralize Lopez’s more-nimble attributes? Given Whiteside’s assumed advantage in the low post, Lopez took him downtown, drilling 4-5 from deep and scoring 16 of the Nets’ 30 first quarter points. But an unexpected revenge game from Wayne Ellington (7 points) had the Nets chasing, down 34-30 after 12 minutes.

Like, what is this even?
Like, what is this even?

Goran Dragic quickly took advantage of his matchup with Randy Foye and the Nets fell behind by ten. With Justin Hamilton forced to the bench with three personal fouls, Lopez returned to play sidekick to the kids. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who has averaged 10+ points over the last 5 games, has stayed hungry and earned some of that rookie year swagger back — and not a moment too soon.

Ellington continued to torch his former team and Miami stormed out to a 44-38 lead with 8 minutes and change in the half. Lopez didn’t quite pick up where he left off, but he picked his spots generously, proving that there are few forces more dominant than the seven-footer when he’s cooking. However, the wonderful run fueled by a red-hot Bojan Bogdanovic (17 points), more craftiness from Caris LeVert, and a couple more out-of-this-world bombs from Lopez.

Nets, 66, Heat, 55, Lopez, 26.

For all the hubbub about who earns starters minutes and their ever-osmosis defending, the Nets came out and took it to the Heat in the first half. That was fun, it was also some very sound basketball — a fate that supporters would more than accept halfway through the season.

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)Given the squeal-inducing first half, it would’ve been fair to fear that horrendously cruel third quarter, but the Nets rode their hot hands and immediately open up with a 15-point lead — all capped off with a spin-and-slam by Trevor Booker, punctuated by YES Network’s Sarah Kustok exclaiming “Double Muscle!”

While the opening frames of the quarter brought Lopez just casually walking into three-pointers, it was the work of the young guns that brought it all home. Spencer Dinwiddie, who has polarized much of the community, continues to get stronger with each passing game — he may not be a future piece and his ceiling is likely below that of Isaiah Whitehead, but he’s proven to be a capable court manager.

A little later, it was the frenzied pace of Whitehead, Hollis-Jefferson, and Caris LeVert (paired with the fine wine-instant offense of Quincy Acy) that helped the Nets put together one of their best 5 minute periods of the entire season. Perhaps one reason for the puzzling, continuous starts for Randy Foye is because these youngsters are genuinely energized and bring out the best in each other.

Whiteside, for all his enigmatic love-em-or-hate-em attitude, was a shockingly quiet 3-10 from the floor and hauled in just a single rebound — but former Net Willie Reed handed business in the paint, posting a 14 point and 4 rebound line. A short burst of buckets by the hero-of-the-week Dion Waiters (24 points) gave the Heat an inkling of hope and they’d take full advantage.

Then all of a sudden, the wheels fell off and the turnovers piled up. The Nets were crippling stagnant and slow to react, that sinking feeling becoming surer of the choke job by the moment. With two minutes to go, Ellington nailed a three-pointer to tie the game up at 99 points, an 18-point lead gone just like that. After an Okaro White three-pointer, Dinwiddie would then airball an attempt on the other end, and a loose ball foul would put the Nets down by 3 points. With 10.7 seconds to go, the Heat were up 104-103 and had possession, forcing Waiters into long prayer of a three-pointer annnnnnnnnd bang, of course.

Heat 109, Nets 106

Yeah, all those good feelings from the first half? Gone. Back to the drawing board then…

Spencer Dinwiddie


The stats: 10 PTS, 4-8 FG, 5 REB, 4 AST, 1 TOV


Caris LeVert


The stats: 12 PTS, 4-8 FG, 4 AST


Brook Lopez


The stats: 33 PTS, 11-23 FG, 7-14 3PT, 4 REB, 3 AST, 2 TOV

A man possessed. A man on the moon. Maybe, even, a man making his case for a shock All-Star Weekend 3-Point Shootout selection?

Jokes aside, good lord, that was a blitzkrieg. Whiteside was blindsided by Lopez’s deep, deep heaves and never mentally responded himself, finishing with just 7 points and 1 rebound. The second half was far less kind to the Nets and Lopez and the pair eventually caved into the Heat’s relentless effort — which stings a whole lot.

For all his first half hotness, Lopez got a bit lazy and settled for some bad attempts — I don’t know, I really don’t. But his face after the final buzzer said it all: heartbreaker.

The second half was far less nice to Lopez, Lopez was a blast to watch before he added a three-point repertoire and it might be my favorite version of this comic-book reading sci-fi nerd — and that’s saying something special.