MIAMI — Three weeks into the season, the Nets are done visiting Kaseya Center unless they face the Heat in the playoffs. The second visit Thursday was worse than the first.
Instead of a comeback like on Nov. 1, the Nets got too much of Jimmy Butler in their 122-115 loss. Butler had 36 points, 18 coming in the third quarter.
It was as if Butler remembered the first meeting where the Nets (6-6) overcame a 16-point deficit in the first half despite being down three starters. There was no comeback this time as the Heat (8-4) led by as many as 17 in the fourth quarter and won their seventh consecutive game.
“Jimmy really capitalized on a lot of the plays,” Lonnie Walker IV said. “I think he was scoring everywhere.”
Butler shot 12-for-19 from the field and added three blocks. He also had a steal to end the second quarter that led to a layup by Haywood Highsmith with 4.1 seconds left.
That finished a 14-0 run by the Heat as the Nets trailed 60-52 at halftime. Thanks to multiple turnovers and rushed shots during that stretch, coach Jacque Vaughn described it as fighting uphill most of the game.
“You can't have that momentum shift going into halftime,” Vaughn said. “So that's something that we need to learn about finishing the half, having the momentum going in your favor and halftime.”
Added Mikal Bridges, “I know they were in the locker room probably just [thinking about] the last time they were up like last time and we came back and won. I thought they were really detailed coming out of half to not let that happen again.”
Credit most of that to Butler, who at one point scored or assisted on 15 consecutive Heat points in the third quarter.
On three consecutive possessions, he blew by Royce O’Neale for a dunk, scored a three-point play after O’Neale fouled him, then drove to the basket before dishing an assist to rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr.
Butler also had help. Duncan Robinson, who had just five points in the first meeting, made six three-pointers and finished with 26 points. Bam Adebayo also scored 20 points.
The Nets hurt themselves also with 15 turnovers and allowing the Heat to make 15 three-pointers, one off their season-high. But that second-quarter meltdown plus Butler’s play proved the difference.
“We tried it all. We blitzed them. We. changed our matchups,” Vaughn said of Butler. “We did a little bit of everything but you give him credit. He's seen these situations before.”
Bridges had 23 points but after making his first three shots, he was just 3-for-15 the rest of the game. Walker had a season-high 23 points off the bench as six Nets scored in double figures
Cam Johnson was hounded by foul trouble most of the game. He picked up his fourth foul in the second on a charge drawn by Kevin Love then got his fifth with 9:07 in the third while fighting for a rebound.
“Some of them are just minor, little contact that sometimes are called and some of them was just trying to avoid fouls so much that you end up committing them but that's on me,” said Johnson, who had 16 points, “I can't be doing that."
Nic Claxton scored 16 points on a perfect 7-for-7 shooting from the field and added six rebounds and three blocks.
The teams meet again on Nov. 25, their third showdown in 15 games. Fortunately, it’ll be at Barclays Center as they’ll hope a change of scenery brings a change in play after two tough games in Miami.
“They played great basketball,” Walker said of Butler and Robinson. “Bam did what he was supposed to do as well and we just got to be ready to play them next time.”