All the Brooklyn Nets needed, coach Jacque Vaughn insisted, was one win. They got it, and made it look easy.
Mikal Bridges scored 27 points, and the Nets opened the third quarter on a 31-6 run on the way to rolling past Miami 129-100 on Saturday night and leapfrogging the Heat back into the No. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference.
Cam Johnson added 23 points and Spencer Dinwiddie scored 15 for the Nets (40-34), who snapped a five-game slide. They´re only a half-game up on Miami (40-35) in the race for the sixth and final guaranteed playoff berth, but swept the Heat 3-0 this season and would also own a head-to-head tiebreaker.
‘We had the mindset coming in that this was a playoff game,’ Johnson said.
Max Strus scored 23 for the Heat, all of them in the first half. Tyler Herro scored 23, Jimmy Butler had 18 and Bam Adebayo finished with 16 for the Heat. Miami was outscored 64-31 after halftime.
Brooklyn Nets forward Mikal Bridges (1) dribbles the ball past Miami Heat guard Max Strus (31)
‘We have not been defending at a world-class level, the way we’re capable of … and the second half just became an avalanche,’ Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Strus came off the bench and made his first nine shots, one of them putting Miami up 51-37 midway through the second quarter.
Over the next 14 minutes, the Nets outscored Miami 54-24 – completely turning the game around, eventually leading by 32 and, for now, putting Brooklyn in position to escape the play-in tournament that´ll decide the final two East playoff berths.
‘You see how this March Madness is and you´re one and you´re done,’ Vaughn said. ‘And that´s part of it. I have not discussed any of the standings with this group. Really, we have gone day to day and tried to get a win.’
The Heat could have moved 1 1/2 games up on Brooklyn for sixth with a win.
‘There has been nothing easy about this season and that doesn’t necessarily mean that has to be a negative thing,’ Spoelstra said.
‘You have to embrace the struggle. You have to figure out ways to stay together … but we just got categorically outplayed tonight.’
It was Brooklyn´s second trip to Miami this season. The first was Jan. 8 – which ended up being the last time Kevin Durant played for the Nets, and the last time Durant and Kyrie Irving played together.
Durant left that game with a knee injury, then got traded to Phoenix, and Irving has since been dealt to Dallas, as well.
The Nets were 27-13 after that night, second in the East, just a game behind Boston for the best record in the NBA. They´re 13-21 since, yet still have the Heat looking up at them in the standings – which Vaughn insists he hasn´t discussed with his team.
‘You need the momentum, the confidence, the reassurance that you can get it done,’ Vaughn said. ‘So, haven´t tried to complicate it more than that.’
Cameron Johnson #2 of the Brooklyn Nets drives against Tyler Herro #14 of the Miami Heat
SUNS 125, 76ERS 105
Devin Booker scored 29 points, Bismack Biyombo added 17 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks, and the Phoenix Suns snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the Philadelphia 76ers 125-105 on Saturday night.
It was a badly needed win for the Suns, who had lost six of seven coming into the game to slide down to No. 5 in the Western Conference playoff race. The Sixers have lost three of their past four.
The game was tight through most of the first three quarters, but the Suns used a 26-11 run to turn a tied game into a 15-point advantage early in the fourth quarter. Phoenix got good minutes from most of their bench players, particularly Terrence Ross and T.J. Warren.
Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns drives to the basket against the Philadelphia 76ers
KINGS 121, JAZZ 113
Kevin Huerter scored a team-high 27 points and the Sacramento Kings beat the Utah Jazz 121-113 on Saturday night.
Domantas Sabonis finished with 16 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists for his NBA-leading 60th double-double of the season. Harrison Barnes added 18 points. Huerter added seven rebounds and four assists for the Kings (45-29).
Keegan Murray scored 14 of his 22 total points in the first quarter and knocked down six three-pointers for the Kings. Murray is four three-pointers away from breaking Donovan Mitchell’s single-season record for three-pointers made in a rookie season.
Jazz rookie Walker Kessler scored a career-high 31 points for the Jazz (35-39). Kessler added 11 rebounds and finished 14 of 16 from the floor. Kelly Olynyk finished with 17 points and 10 assists, Ochai Agbaji scored 20 and Jarrell Brantley added 13 off the bench for Utah.
Kings’ Kevin Huerter signals toward fans after making a 3-point basket vs the Phoenix Suns
NUGGETS 129, BUCKS 106
Nikola Jokic had 31 points and 11 assists, Jamal Murray finished with 26 points and nine assists, and the Denver Nuggets beat the Milwaukee Bucks 129-106 on Saturday night in a late-season showdown of the NBA’s conference leaders.
Michael Porter Jr. scored 19 points for West-leading Denver (50-24), which outscored East-leading Milwaukee 68-40 in the second half.
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 31 points — just seven in the second half — and grabbed nine rebounds for the Bucks (53-20).
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, drives the lane against Milwaukee Bucks’ Bobby Portis
HAWKS 143, PACERS 130
John Collins led eight Atlanta scorers in double figures with 21 points and the Hawks’ overcame Jordan Nwora’s season-high 33 points to beat the Indiana Pacers 143-130 on Saturday.
The Hawks set a season scoring high despite the loss of Trae Young, who was ejected in the third quarter. Four Atlanta backups scored in double figures, led by Saddiq Bey with 18 points.
“Our bench was unbelievable,” said Hawks coach Quin Snyder, who added the backups “raised the level of competitiveness in the game.”
Dejounte Murray had 20 points in his return after missing two games with a non-COVID illness. Bogdan Bogdanovic, who had nine points, just missed giving the Hawks a ninth player in double figures.
John Collina picked up the slack in Young’s absence and he finished the game with 21 points
PELICANS 131, CLIPPERS 110
Brandon Ingram carried the New Orleans Pelicans to a 131-110 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night.
Ingram recorded a double-double with 32 points and 13 assist. Trey Murphy III also scored 32 after nailing 10 of 12 from 3-point range. CJ McCollum had a near triple-double with 21 points, eight rebounds, and eight assist.
Bones Hyland led the way for the Clippers with 18 points off the bench.
Brandon Ingram (14) shoots against Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2)
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