Five takeaways from the Heat’s 101-95 loss to Nets Friday night at the Barclays Center –Miami’s second loss to Brooklyn in a three-week span.
1. With Hassan Whiteside making an impact early, the Nets adjust with smaller lineup and take another game from the Heat. Whiteside finished the game with 22 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks and helped the Heat open a 16-point lead in the third quarter. But the Nets adjusted and went with a smaller and quicker lineup on the floor that sped up the pace and allowed them to erase Miami’s lead by the 8:57 mark of the fourth quarter. The Heat gave up 34 points in the final quarter as the Nets went with a lineup of mostly shooting guards and small forwards led by DeMarre Carroll, who had a career-high 26 points and Spencer Dinwiddie, who slashed his way to the basket twice down the stretch on defensive lapses by the Heat and finished with 15 points.
"We pride ourselves on our defense, and it took us forever in that fourth quarter, start of the fourth, before we got a stop," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "It was a timeout and several possessions before we settled in and dug in and got a couple in a row. That's not a winning formula for us. Anyway you look at it, giving up 34 going down the stretch. We would have had enough offense to win if we had a normal Miami Heat quarter, where you hold them under 24 points, whatever it may be."
Goran Dragic called the smaller lineup the Heat’s ‘kryptonite’ on Friday as the Nets went with skilled shooters such as Carroll and Chris LeVert, who gave Brooklyn the lead at 79-77 after not having led since the first quarter at 20-19.
"They went to a small lineup and we struggle when they go small when they put a shooter at the 5 or a spacer," Dragic said. "That was our kryptonite. We’ll try to get better. We were close but not close enough."
2. Whiteside answers his coach’s challenge and has another big game. Whiteside scored 20 or more points in consecutive games for the first time this season. But he also made an impact on the defensive end with four blocks and collected 12 rebounds. His return to the game with 7:38 in the fourth quarter helped the Heat retake the lead briefly at 83-81. But defensive breakdowns allowed the Nets to take the advantage again and put the game away down the stretch.
"I think that was really the turning point of the game, because it should have been over," Whiteside said. "When you're up 16 against a team in the third quarter, it shouldn't be no way they come back from that. That's where we've got to do a better job of playing with a lead. It shouldn't have come down to the fourth quarter, it should have been over. We should have just kept building on that, up by 16."
3. The Heat was slowing it down in the first half with an effective half-court offense, but couldn’t keep Nets in check. The Heat kept in mind the way the Nets blitzed it on its home court on Dec. 29 outscoring Miami 85-37 over a two-quarter stretch and leading by as many as 38 points. The Heat stuck to a half-court offense almost exclusively throughout the first half, but couldn’t carry it over to the second half as the Nets picked things up and scored 58 points in the second half and shot 52.6 percent.
"The pace was that way for most of the game," Spoelstra said. "We had at least we were controlling it from an execution standpoint offensively. But they were playing at their pace, the whole way through. They just went to spread pick and rolls, took the matchups that they liked and just beat us off the dribble, time and time again."
4. The Heat still needs more from the depleted shooting guard position. With Tyler Johnson missing his second game in a row with a sprained ankle and Achilles, Derrick Jones, Jr. got the start once again. Although he played only 17 minutes, Jones missed all four of his attempts from the field and went scoreless. After a while the Nets weren’t even challenging him on defense. Wayne Ellington, who has seen plenty of minutes since Johnson’s injury, which compounded the Heat’s problems with Dion Waiters sidelined for the remainder of the season, made only 4 of 11 shots and 2 of 7 from three-point range. James Johnson finished with only eight points and Justise Winslow had five in 25 minutes.
5. Josh Richardson is suddenly struggling offensively. Two of the Heat’s primary offensive weapons had tough shooting nights. Despite finishing with 17 points, Dragic shot 6 of 16 from the field. And Richardson went 4 of 12 from the field and finished with 12 points. Richardson has struggled from the field over the past three games, shooting 14 of 38 (36.8 percent) and averaging 12.3 points per game. Richardson had been averaging 17.8 points over the previous 14 games.
"It’s a little different with everybody back," Richardson said. "I’m not really worried about it. It will fall. I’ve been trying to find other ways to affect the game by instead of just only scoring. There’s a lot different things you can do to help the team."