Analysis: Brooklyn Nets must close with consistency

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets were poised to win their third straight when they opened the fourth quarter with a 15-4 run, but they were outscored 12-5 over the final 5:37 in suffering an 83-82 loss that amplified two of their biggest issues.

Joe Johnson knew it. He had the sweet stroke going on Friday night at Barclays Center, so when the Brooklyn Nets' sharpshoooter let go of the basketball in the waining moments of the second overtime against the pesky Detroit Pistons, the swagger that's been missing for much of his first season wearing black and white translated into a game-winning buzzer beater.

The play was total Iso-Joe: Inbound the ball to JoeJohn and watch him dribble, gain separation, pull up and release with time running out. Nothing but net to seal a statement victory over the Pistons.

"The coaches and, like I say, my teammates have the confidence in putting the ball in my hands down the stretch, then I have to come up big for us," Johnson said.

Joe Cool was back and the Nets earned themselves a big win that left his head coach beaming.

"Joe closed the door for us, and that was really exciting," said Nets coach Avery Johnson.

Avery Johnson went on to discuss how such a moment can lift a team to greater heights. Perhaps the Nets will go on another run similar to what got them off to an 11-4 start prior to that five-game losing streak. Or the road could be filled with more potholes like Saturday night against the Chicago Bulls. The Nets were poised to win their third straight when they opened the fourth quarter with a 15-4 run, but they were outscored 12-5 over the final 5:37 in suffering an 83-82 loss that amplified two of their biggest issues:

Consistency and the lack of a consistent closer, a cold-blooded assassin like Jason Kidd -- who plays across the Brooklyn Bridge for the New York Knicks -- who's always there to drive a stake into an opponent's heart. While the Nets (13-10) were shooting 38.7 percent from the field and turning the ball over 18 times -- none more damaging than Joe Johnson's throwaway with 1:01 left that led to Luol Deng's fast-break dunk -- Kidd shook off a 3-for-14 shooting night to come up with big steals, pinpoint passes and a conversion of clutch buckets during crunch time to lead the 18-5 Knicks to another win.

The Nets, on the other hand, have a maddening habit of making it hard on themselves. Even in the win over the inferior Pistons, they blew an 17-point lead, struggled to put away an even worse Toronto Raptors team on Wednesday and allowed the Knicks to rally from down 17 Tuesday night in Brooklyn -- which set up Kidd's game-winning three-pointer with 24 seconds left.

"We had a couple of costly turnovers and I was the biggest culprit of it, me turning the ball over at crucial points of the game," Johnson said after Saturday's setback. "They started doubling every time I had got the ball, and I knew they were going to trap me coming off the pick. But I was going to try to beat Joakim [Noah], and once I saw that I couldn't, I didn't see an outlet. I should have called timeout and I didn't."

The coup de gras was the men in black standing and watching a wide-open Marco Belinelli drive uncontested down the late to put Chicago ahead 81-79 with 21.1 seconds left. Avery Johnson's Nets floundered late -- again -- and those "statement" wins are being offset by losses of Brooklyn's own volition.

"This is definitely a tough one," said Joe Johnson. "Any time you can be up six points with [six] minutes on the clock or seven points and have control of the game on the road, you are in a great position. Tonight, we blew one."

Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNYC

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