Starting Five: Bring it, LeBron!
May, 5, 2014
By Mike Mazzeo | ESPNNewYork.com
Robert Duyos/Sun Sentinel/MCT via Getty ImagesCan the Nets slow LeBron James & Co.? Who knows, but Brooklyn feels it is up to the task.It started Oct. 17, 2013, when Paul Pierce fouled LeBron James hard in a game that didn’t count.
“That’s our identity. That’s a message to the league,” Pierce said then.
The Nets followed two wins over the two-time defending champions in the preseason with four wins over LeBron’s Miami Heat in the regular season. Three by a single point. The other in double overtime.
There was Mirza Teletovic's smirk. Shaun Livingston's game-ending deflection. Mason Plumlee's buzzer-beating block of James.
But with the two teams set to meet in the second round (Game 1 is Tuesday night in Miami), none of those wins or moments matters now.
“That goes out the window, with the regular season,” said Kevin Garnett, who has had several battles with James over the years. “What we did in the regular season is in the regular season. This is postseason. They’re playing very well. They went right through Charlotte, without [missing] a beat. They’ve been sitting and they’ve been waiting, so let’s get it on.”
“We know we can beat them, but it is going to be a lot different from the regular season in the playoffs,” Joe Johnson said. “So we understand that we will definitely have our work cut out for us and it is going to take a collective team effort.”
“It’s not a rivalry yet,” Paul Pierce said. “You can’t really create rivalries in the regular season. They’re the favorite. We’re still trying to earn respect as a team, as a franchise.”
“We did have some success against them. We can definitely look at some things and see what we did well against them,” Deron Williams said. "Now it’s a new season. Now it’s the playoffs. It’s completely different.”
The Nets are well equipped to face the Heat. They play similar styles, thriving by deploying smaller lineups and causing turnovers. Brooklyn’s veterans like Garnett, Johnson, Pierce and Williams will not be intimidated by Miami. Garnett and Pierce were brought here for this exact reason -- to tangle with James.
The Nets are an underdog, for sure. But they are a formidable underdog. They are the most expensive team in NBA history, and yet it would be pretty shocking if they pulled off this upset. After all, since James teamed up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the summer of 2010, the Heat have made three straight NBA Finals and won the past two titles.
But as Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey said, “I think [the Nets] will give Miami trouble."
Granted, Casey continued, “I don’t know if they’ll win the series, but ...”
We’ll have to wait and see if they can. Should be fun.
Question: What do you think of the Nets’ chances?
In case you missed it: Plenty on the blog on Sunday’s Game 7 victory and a look ahead to the Miami series from Ohm Youngmisuk and me. Check it out!
Stat to know: The final cumulative score in 11 total games: Nets 1,070, Raptors 1,070.
Up next: Game 1 is Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.