Nets guard Cam Thomas handles the ball against Rockets forward Dillon...

Nets guard Cam Thomas handles the ball against Rockets forward Dillon Brooks during the first half at Barclays Center on Saturday. Credit: Noah K. Murray

It felt all too familiar for the Nets on Saturday night: a fourth-quarter lead drifting away as they missed shots and committed turnovers.

After leading by 28 points in the second quarter, 22 in the third and 20 early in the fourth, the Nets sweated until their final possession before beating the Houston Rockets, 106-104. The crowd at Barclays Center had reason to worry as the Rockets moved within one point with 7.1 seconds left.

When Amen Thompson stole an inbounds pass and made a three-pointer to cut the Nets’ lead to 103-102, Nets fans ready to leave got nervous all over again.

Yet the Nets (18-27), who have had four fourth-quarter or overtime collapses this month, hung on, thanks to two free throws by Cam Thomas (37 points) with 5.1 seconds left.

Houston’s Fred VanVleet made one of two free throws with 3.9 seconds to play. On the miss, Nic Claxton fouled Alperen Sengun with 2.4 seconds left, but in a position to tie the score with two free throws, Sengun missed the first. He hit the second to make it 105-104, but Spencer Dinwiddie sank the first of two free throws with seven-tenths of a second remaining as the Nets ended their losing streak at three games.

“We just relaxed and they just came up, played desperate when they was down. That’s on us,” Mikal Bridges said.

The Nets didn’t help themselves with seven fourth-quarter turnovers and only four made field goals. Yet Bridges and coach Jacque Vaughn said there was a calm in the huddle, indicating that they wouldn’t succumb to the pressure, as they had in past meltdowns.

The Nets took a 90-70 lead 20 seconds into the fourth quarter but were outscored 34-18 in the period.

“Even when they were making the run, the conversation between our guys was good going back to the huddle,” Vaughn said. “So that’s a big difference than what it was a month ago. I’m going to take away the positive piece of it.

“We’re in these situations over and over again, which is good, and we’re learning how to deal with it.”

The Nets survived largely because of Thomas, who made his first start since Dec. 27. With Cam Johnson ruled out for personal reasons. Thomas set the tone with 22 first-half points.

Thomas also had five turnovers but shot 11-for-19 in his eighth game this season with at least 30 points. He was a plus-12.

“Other games, we’ll get a little rattled and we’ll start to panic a little bit when teams go on runs like that,” he said. “But we just stayed with the game plan, stayed true to what we worked on all season. And good thing we stayed true to the game plan, because they played well at the end.”

Bridges and Dorian Finney-Smith each had 19 points. For Finney-Smith, who was 4-for-8 on three-pointers, it was his first double-digit-scoring game since Dec. 26 and two shy of his season high.

However, he left the game in the third quarter after landing awkwardly while blocking a shot. The Nets ruled him out with a left ankle injury and his status for Monday against the Jazz is in question.

Vaughn also didn’t say how long Johnson will be away from the team.

Claxton had 10 points and 13 rebounds, his 17th double-double of the season.

Jalen Green, Dillon Brooks and Cam Whitmore each had 19 points to lead the Rockets (21-24).

The win wasn’t pretty, but it was only the Nets’ third of 2024, so they’ll take it. They also snapped a four-game home losing streak.

“It’s better to learn from a win,” Bridges said. “Obviously, it’s tough because how it went, doesn’t feel so good after leaving here tonight, but just got to learn from it. Try to find the good things, too, from the beginning.”

More Brooklyn Nets

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months