Nets forward Mikal Bridges puts up a shot past Cavaliers...

Nets forward Mikal Bridges puts up a shot past Cavaliers guard Darius Garland in the first half of an NBA game at Barclays Center on Thursday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Two nights earlier, the result was not ideal, but the process was.

Against the same team in the same building Thursday night, the process was not ideal and neither was the result. And with nine games left in the regular season, the margin for error is nonexistent.

The Nets extended their losing streak to a season-high five games by falling to the Cavaliers, 116-114, at Barclays Center.

Isaac Okoro’s three-pointer with seven-tenths of a second remaining dropped the Nets to 39-34. They are a half-game behind the Heat, whom they will meet Saturday in Miami, and in seventh place in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Only the top six teams are guaranteed a playoff spot.

“We have to keep the energy and morale high,” said Mikal Bridges, who finished with 32 points, his eighth game with the Nets in which he recorded at least 30 points.

Spencer Dinwiddie added 25 points and 12 assists. Joe Harris netted 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting from three-point range. Royce O’Neale had 12 points off the bench and Nic Claxton added 11.

Donovan Mitchell scored 31 points and Evan Mobley had 26 points and 16 rebounds for Cleveland.

With 4:52 left in the game, the Nets went ahead 107-98 on Joe Harris’ three-pointer.

Cleveland responded with a 14-3 run in a span of 4:07 to cut its deficit to 112-110.

“We were one more stop and one more basket from winning the game,” Dorian Finney-Smith said.

Dinwiddie’s basket extended the advantage to four, but Mitchell responded with a 20-footer. After Mitchell’s basket, Finney-Smith committed a turnover, which forced Dinwiddie to foul Mitchell. He made the first free throw but missed the second. The Nets couldn’t grab the rebound, and the ball found its way to Okoro in the corner for a wide-open three.

“It’s definitely frustrating across the board,” Harris said. “We should have won this game.”

During his pregame news conference, Nets coach Jacque Vaughn spoke about the importance of using defensive stops to get into transition against a Cavaliers squad that has the duo of 6-9 Jarrett Allen and the 6-11 Mobley comprising two-thirds of its starting frontcourt.

Vaughn’s hope was that the Nets’ transition attack would create mismatches against a defense scrambling to get set, which in turn would lead to opportunities to either finish at the rim or have quality three-point attempts.

Defensively, the Nets allowed Cleveland to shoot 47.7% (42-for-88) from the field. Offensively, they missed 21 of 33 three-point attempts (36.4%).

Even though the Nets led 61-60 at halftime, they allowed the Cavaliers to make 21 of 41 shots (51.2%) from the field and 47.4% of their three-pointers (9-for-19).

The triumvirate of Mobley, Mitchell and Darius Garland scored a combined 40 of Cleveland’s 60 first-half points.

The loss was a suboptimal capper on a day that began with the Nets continuing to lack clarity on if or when Ben Simmons can return to the lineup.

Simmons has been out since Feb. 15 with knee soreness and back inflammation. “Ben is in the same position he was the last time I talked to [reporters],” Vaughn said. “Nothing further to comment on. I don’t think I can give you anything else because there’s been nothing to add, really.”

Vaughn did not seem especially interested in discussing how difficult it would be to work Simmons back into the rotation for the playoffs.

“I don’t even think that far ahead,” Vaughn said. “ I keep my life that way. I’m concerned about today’s game. And if those questions present themselves, I’ll be more than willing to see how fits with the group at that time. But don’t even want to look that far ahead.”

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