The Heat sauntered into Barclays Center on Friday night as the NBA’s hottest team. The Nets had the league’s longest losing streak and worst record. The result was as predictable as it was painful.
For the third time in as many meetings, the Nets built a double-digit lead on Miami only to blow it. This time, a third-quarter drought squandered the lead and a fourth-quarter funk lost the game, 108-99, in front of 15,382 fans.
The Nets saw their losing streak hit 12 games, the longest in the NBA this season. They haven’t won at home since Dec. 26, and dropped to 9-45 — still worst in the NBA — despite yet another gritty effort in which they fell just short.
A stellar effort by center Brook Lopez, who had 30 points and eight rebounds, went to waste as the Heat won their 13th straight, after a horrible start to the season, improving to 24-30.
Miami got 26 points from James Johnson and 21 from point guard Goran Dragic. Tyler Johnson, whom the Nets inked to a four-year, $50 million restricted free-agent deal this summer, only to see the Heat match the contract, added 18 points and six boards for Miami.
“[The Nets] play hard,” Johnson told The Post. “Their record deceives people. They only have nine wins, but they play hard.”
They may play hard, but it’s not always crisp when they need it, as the Nets committed three key turnovers in an 8-1 Heat run that decided the game late in the fourth quarter.
“[We have to] keep getting better, keep improving, keep coming in every day. Getting one percent better, two percent better is going to push us over the top. We’re process-oriented. Our guys are obsessed with getting better,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said before the loss. “It’s unfortunate we haven’t broken through, but I see improvements in our defense, so there are some good signs.”
There just have not been enough, and the Nets have seen a game play out like this before against the Heat.
They blew an 18-point fourth-quarter lead to lose to the Heat on Jan. 25, then squandered an 11-point second-quarter cushion to fall in Miami five days later.
The Nets brought ferocity, but two offensive droughts cost them.
Brooklyn ran off 10 straight points — smothering the Heat on the defensive end to the tune of eight straight misses and three turnovers — to take a 15-11 lead with 4:57 left in the first quarter. Lopez had all but two of those points, dominating inside. Meanwhile, the rest of the team had just nine points in the first on 1-of-13 shooting.
The Nets led 53-49 after the first half and held Miami to 36.7 percent shooting, and Lopez’s jumper off a Rondae Hollis-Jefferson feed padded the lead to 67-56 just past midway through the third. But the rest of that quarter didn’t go well.
The Nets were hapless on offense as Miami closed the third on an 18-5 run. Lopez mustered just four in the quarter after a 19-point first half. And the Nets — who missed 10 of 12 shots with five turnovers in that drought — managed just 19 points in the third as they went into the final period trailing by two.
Another offensive drought proved more costly. Brooklyn committed three quick turnovers in an 8-1 Heat run, and Rodney McGruder’s putback left the Nets down 91-84 with 5:41 left to play. The Nets never got closer than five the rest of the way.
A blown call cost the Nets in Wednesday’s 114-110 overtime loss to Washington.
With the score tied at 107 with 1:21 left in overtime, Bojan Bogdanovic got whistled for a shooting foul on Washington’s Otto Porter Jr., who made both free throws. It was an incorrect call, however, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minutes Report, which stated “Bogdanovic (BKN) makes legal contact with the ball.”
Jeremy Lin and Quincy Acy both missed Friday’s game.
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