NEW YORK — Every fan in attendance at Barclays Center rose to their feet for the most pivotal possession in Thursday’s encore matchup between the Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers: Game on the line, single-possession game, who takes the last shot?
This time it was Spencer Dinwiddie, who sized up his man with a flurry of crossovers before driving the lane for a high-arching layup that should have been the nail in the coffin.
Plot twist: It wasn’t — the embodiment of the all the struggles the Nets face now with no stars left to bail out Brooklyn down the stretch of tight games.
Cavs star Donovan Mitchell hit a step-back mid-range jumper to bring Cleveland within two, then the Nets turned the ball over, with the ball finding its way to Mitchell, who attacked the rim and got to the foul line.
Mitchell made the first free throw then missed the second before recovering his own miss. He missed the tip-in, but the ball found its way to forward Isaac Okoro, who hit a game-winning three that left only 0.7 seconds left on the clock.
Mikal Bridges’ buzzer beater from near half court fell short. The Nets led by as many as 10 in the fourth quarter before that lead evaporated.
And as a result, the home stand from hell at Barclays Center went as expected — winless.
Thursday’s 116-114 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers marked the Nets’ fifth straight loss and fourth at home in as many games, including the second straight loss to a Cavs team set to clinch the Eastern Conference’s No. 4 seed.
The Nets have no such assurances and must continue the fight for their playoff livelihood against a surging Miami Heat team looking to climb out of Play-In Tournament territory.
With the Knicks having created separation between themselves and the No. 6 seeded Nets, the only way the Heat can do that is by winning more games than Brooklyn the rest of the way out.
The Nets and Heat are now right next to each other in the standings, with Brooklyn 13.5 games back from the No. 1 seeded Milwaukee Bucks and Miami just a half game better.
Bridges finished with a game-high 32 points and Dinwiddie added 25 points and 12 assists. Mitchell led his team with 31 and Cavs big man Evan Mobley gave the Nets fits with 26 points and 16 rebounds.
Joe Harris came off the bench to hit five threes on eight attempts, none more important than the triple he hit midway through the third quarter to give the Nets a 10-point lead, their largest advantage of the night. Harris cracked the 1,000 career threes made mark against the Cavaliers on Thursday. He finished with 15 points and three rebounds on the night.
Next up, the Nets travel to Florida for a road back-to-back, first against the Heat, then against the Orlando Magic the following night,