The looks on the Nets’ faces after this one were similar to the night Dwyane Wade buried the game-winner in Miami. But there was one major difference: it was Dwyane Wade.
Friday night, the Nets let 5-foot-5 Earl Boykins deliver the dagger that ended any and all hopes of their first two-game winning streak since April 11 and 13, 2009. But like so many of these kinds of games, it never should have come down to one possession.
It did and Boykins buried the Nets with a pull-up jumper with four-tenths of a second left that gave the Wizards an 81-79 victory.
The Nets should have had this game. For the most part, they played hard and other than the last play, their defense was strong for most of the night.
This is a team that gives up 30 a quarter easily. The Nets held the Wizards to 18 in the first, 17 in the third and 18 in the fourth. They didn’t allow a starter to score in double-digits for the first time in Wizards’ franchise history. This is a game they should have won.
What went wrong –- other than the last play –- was the Nets gave up too many offensive rebounds. But more importantly, they couldn’t do much offensively down the stretch of the third and especially the fourth period. Now that was very Net-like.
In the third quarter, after the Nets took a 60-52 lead with 5:38 left, they missed five of seven shots, three of four foul shots and committed three turnovers. Yet they still led by three at the start of the fourth.
Then, up 77-74 with 5:01 to go in the game, the Nets completely fell apart. They shot 1-for-6, missed their only two foul shots and committed two turnovers. One was a 24-second shot-clock violation with 1:18 left and the Nets down two.
“We missed free throws down at the end,” coach Kiki Vandeweghe said. “We were shooting well and we just missed a bunch of them. It’s unusual. Almost every game I would take those and we will hit them.”
The free-throw misses were unexpected. Yi Jianlian, an 81 percent shooter from the line, missed the three in the third. And Brook Lopez, an 83 percent shooter and often the player Vandeweghe picks to shoot technicals, misfired on the two in the fourth.
“I don’t know what happened,” Lopez said. “I can’t believe I missed those. What’s that? It came back to bite us. You can’t give away easy ones like that.”
That’s why the Nets are kicking themselves after this one, and rightfully so. This is not Miami and Dwyane Wade they lost to here.
This is a bad Wizards’ team, riddled with turmoil from the gun incident that resulted in season-long bans for Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton. They gave the Nets so many chances to win this game and they couldn’t, which is why they’re 4-41.
And on the last play, it wasn’t All-Stars Antawn Jamison or Caron Butler that devastated the Nets or noted sharp-shooter Mike Miller. It was Boykins, who wasn’t in the league at the start of the season and played in Italy last year.
The Nets tried to play him to his left, but it didn’t work. He went right and got freed when Jamison picked Keyon Dooling. Kris Humphries switched but was playing for the drive and Boykins hit the open shot.
“We were trying to corral him,” Humphries said. “I probably should have pushed up a little bit more.”
“We didn’t really try to contest it at all,” Lopez said.
The Nets could have and should have played it better, but it never should have come down to that one play. They should have had a second straight win instead of another painful loss.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)