The Brooklyn Nets’ latest loss was costly both in the standings and on the players.
“It’s devastating losing like that,” Mikal Bridges told reporters after the Nets’ 116-114 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 23 in a video on the YES Network’s YouTube channel.
With 11 seconds to go and a one-point lead, the Nets had a chance to snap their losing streak at four games and hold their ground in the constantly-shifting Eastern Conference standings with now has them sitting in seventh place and holding a spot in the Play-In Tournament with potential for an even greater fall from grace.
Instead, Cavs star Donovan Mitchell got away with a lane violation, coming up with his own rebound for a putback attempt. Except Mitchell missed only to be bailed out as four different Nets players had an opportunity to secure the rebound.
The ball found its way to Caris LeVert who found a wide-open Issac Okoro in the corner for a game-winning three, the first of the latter’s career.
Brooklyn has lost five straight games. They are 7-12 since the trade deadline and just 5-10 since the All-Star break with a 12th-place finish still a mathematical possibility. And those self-inflicted wounds likely sting Brooklyn much worse than either of the missed calls on Cleveland.
Nets Feeling the Effects of the Losses
“I mean, obviously we keep the energy and morale high,” Bridges said when asked what the vibe was like in the locker room faced with their new reality. “But I mean everybody’s talking just trying to help each other. Not just one guy, everybody.”
Brooklyn has many outspoken voices in the locker room who have been open about the challenges they have faced on both ends as they get acclimated to playing together.
“Obviously, combining a couple players, there’s some things we have to iron out,” Cameron Johnson said on the Nets’ off-day, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “But I think the core of what we have, and what we’re trying to do, I think it’s pretty special. We’ve got guys that compete, guys that play hard and you’re gonna start seeing us build this thing together.”
Big man Nic Claxton, who was also wrongly whistled for an infraction late, has publicly stumped for more effort from everyone on the glass.
The Nets surely needed that collective leadership more than ever after this.
“This is a emotionally taxing game when you don’t come out as the winner on the other side and you had the ball in your hands with 20 seconds to go, and they were going to have to foul us” head coach Jacque Vaughn said on the YES Network’s channel. ”So in a game like this, emotionally, you’re going to be spent a little bit. So I think you learn about yourself: can you let it go and move on to the next game?”
Nets’ Task Doesn’t Get Much Easier
Brooklyn has just nine games to right the ship. With a slew of decisions to make this offseason – such as picking an actual direction – they almost need the postseason to get a better look at this hodgepodge cast of pieces.
Further complicating matters are the continued health issues keeping Ben Simmons off the floor.
Simmons is in the third year of a five-year, $177 million contract with over $78 million due over the next two seasons and no outs.
A healthy version of Simmons could very well be the key to unlocking this group on both ends as an extremely switchable defender and primary ball handler for a roster otherwise stocked with 3-and-D players and specialists. But he hasn’t been healthy for some time and, even when he’s been on the court, he has not looked like the guy that inked that contract.
That’s just another layer of complexity facing the Nets this coming summer.