Dec. 7: Not a pretty finish, but a successful one
The Brooklyn Nets hosted the Toronto Raptors — leading the Eastern Conference at 21-5 — in the lowest place they had been all season.
Two nights earlier, Brooklyn had coughed up a 20-point fourth-quarter lead and lost at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was the eighth straight loss overall for the Nets, their eighth straight loss at Barclays Center and at 8-18, the season was teetering on the edge of collapse.
As they had done 16 times previously already in the season, the Nets roared out early, leading by 11 points in the first quarter and getting the edge as large as 14 before Toronto rallied to tie things up by halftime.
This wasn’t new for Brooklyn or its fans — in those first 16 games in which they held a lead of at least 10 points, the Nets were just 8-8 and had lost their last four such decisions.
The Nets and Raptors battled back-and-forth through the third quarter, with Brooklyn holding a slim 80-79 lead entering the fourth. Once again the Nets got a working lead and, once again, they couldn’t hold it.
Brooklyn went up seven with 4:52 to play on Spencer Dinwiddie’s drive and score. The Raptors answered with nine straight points, taking a 96-94 lead on Kawhi Leonard‘s 3-pointer with 2:23 to go.
Jarrett Allen gave the Nets a two-point lead with a putback tip-in with 1:19 left, but Pascal Siakam tied it back up on a short jumper off the window with 1:09 remaining.
D’Angelo Russell turned the ball over when his pass was intercepted by Leonard. Russell got it back by stealing a pass from Leonard. But with 27.9 seconds left, Russell inadvertently stepped out of bounds.
Leonard missed a pull-up jumper with seven seconds to go, setting up Dinwiddie for a chance to win it. Leonard blocked his attempt at the rim and it was off to overtime.
The Nets didn’t make it easy in OT, either.
After taking a one-point lead on Allen’s layup off a set-up from Dinwiddie, the Nets lost the ball out of bounds when Russell appeared to be hit in the head during a double-team on the sideline. (The call, however, was confirmed in the NBA’s Official Last Two Minute Report.)
Toronto, still down one, got the ball to Leonard. But the Nets’ defense forced it out of the superstar’s hands and Fred VanVleet‘s 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left was off.
The streak was over. And another was just beginning.