MIAMI - The Nets' unconscionable free fall continues and the pull cord on their emergency parachute isn't working, a disastrous set of circumstances for a team teetering on the brink.
They're on the fast track to irrelevancy, sitting on the cusp of playoff oblivion, and at this rate it's going to take a minor miracle to earn a postseason ticket for the third straight season.
Wednesday night's matchup with the Heat represented a chance to make amends somewhat for their disappointing play of late, providing the Nets with an opportunity to gain some important ground on one of the teams they are chasing in the standings. But they came out flat in one of their biggest games of the season, playing catch-up for all but three-plus minutes of the first quarter and lost their fifth game in a row thanks to being burned by the Heat, 104-98, at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Nets fall three games behind the Pacers in a race for the eighth playoff spot.
"A few more losses in a row and we could be completely out of it," Nets coach Lionel Hollins said before the game. "That is all up to the other teams who are down there with us. Nobody has won 10 in a row and ran off with anything. That's why these spots are available -- because everybody is in the same boat."
Deron Williams and Mason Plumlee had 18 points apiece to lead the Nets (25-38).
Dwyane Wade paced the Heat (29-35) with 28 points, draining 10 of 25 shots, and Chris "Birdman" Anderson was a force inside for Miami with 18 points and 14 rebounds. The two sparked the Heat to a flaming hot start in which they connected on their initial nine shots and jumped out to a 13-point first-quarter advantage.
The Nets really only threatened the Heat on two occasions, the second coming way too late as they drew within 106-101 with 36.7 seconds left, creating a bit of fool's gold with the final result. Their true chase came in the third quarter, when they finally started showing a spark. Williams, who's struggled mightily with his shot for a while now, buried a three-pointer with 6:22 left in the third quarter to shave the Nets' deficit to 69-61 and had a nice drive to the bucket on their ensuing possession to whittle the gap to 69-63.
But the Heat responded rather easily and thwarted the Nets' charge, keeping them at bay. Highlighted by hustle and nifty ball movement, Miami rattled off a 9-2 spurt to regain complete control, grabbing a 78-65 edge that didn't fall below eight points until the Nets' last gasp, sending the announced sellout crowd of 19,500 into the late-night South Florida humidity feeling rather giddy.
Just getting back into it took a lot of energy, given the way the Heat worked the Nets over in the first half. Miami had a 19-6 edge in fast break points and pounded Brooklyn on the interior to the tune of 40 points, which was 12 more than the Nets amassed. In building up a first-half lead as large as 18 points, the Heat shot 51.1 percent from the field and took extremely good care of the ball, turning it over only twice.