Before the Brooklyn Nets lost on a game-winning three-pointer from Cleveland Cavaliers forward Issac Okoro, and even before Donovan Mitchell secure a rebound on a potential lane violation, there were self-inflicted wounds.
“I think they were a little late to even realize they had the trap.” said head coach Jacque Vaughn after the Nets’ 116-114 loss to Cleveland on March 23 via the YES Network’s YouTube channel. “We had enough shooters out there for them to foul us. I thought we were in a good position to continue to spray the ball around because they were going to have to foul to put us on the line.”
Dinwiddie was bringing the ball up the floor when Cleveland sent a trap his way, speeding up his internal clock and leading to a hurried pass and a turnover.
“When you’re getting trapped supposed to have a couple guys flash to the ball,” Dinwiddie explained via the YES Network’s channel. “It was a little bit delayed, and so sometimes you try to throw a guy open. In hindsight, I should just call it a timeout. So I accept full responsibility for that. It’s not on [Dorian Finney-Smith], that’s on me. I mean he hadn’t been in the game so it’s not him.”
The Cavs outscored the Nets 13-6 over the final 3:30 of the game winning the regular-season series two games to one.
Dinwiddie finished the night with 25 points and 12 assists continuing a promising trend.
His top-six performances in terms of assists have come while with the Nets. The 29-year-old guard shot 60% from the floor and 50% from three while adding four rebounds. But the final turnover, which technically was not his, proved most costly.
Finney-Smith, who was tagged for the mishap – one of 15 Nets turnovers that led to 20 Cavs points, though Brooklyn was able to match that – also explained what happened.
“I could have not turned the ball over,” Finney-Smith told YES Network. “We could have got the offensive rebound on [Mitchell’s] free throw. We played what, 20-23 minutes good? But they executed at the end of the game. … Just trying to give Spence an outlet and I got caught on the sideline. Probably should have called timeout but I didn’t know how many we had. So I tried to get it to Mikal [Bridges], and he missed it.”
Nets’ Biggest Issue Shows Up at Worst Time
Bridges led the way for Brooklyn with 32 points adding six rebounds. But he continued to struggle from deep hitting just two of his seven looks from beyond the arc. Finney-Smith struggled, going 0-for-6 from the floor and scoring all four of his points at the free-throw line.
But it was their rebounding that proved to be their ultimate downfall leading to Okoro’s game-winner regardless of whether Mitchell left early or not.
The Nets rank 29th in total rebounding but do check in 19th in defensive rebounding. Still, they also allow the fifth-most second-chance points leading to a scenario like what transpired.
Their issues executing late — they are 2-6 in clutch games since the deadline — belie Dinwiddie’s efforts as a playmaker on the night.
Brooklyn’s Cushion Has Evaporated
The Nets have gone 7-12 since the trade deadline and just 5-10 since returning from the All-Star break. They now sit seventh in the Eastern Conference standings and would be in the Play-In Tournament if the regular season ended today.
Fortunately for them, it does not.
With nine games to go, they can still claw their way back out of this slump. Things can also get worse, though, with a 12th-place finish still mathematically possible.