M.I.A. in Miami: Nets' frontcourt flunks

The Brooklyn Nets have three capable centers in Kevin Garnett, Andray Blatche and Mason Plumlee.

But where were they on Tuesday night?

Garnett, Blatche and Plumlee combined for 6 points, 11 rebounds and 4 turnovers on 2-for-9 shooting in their team’s 107-86 blowout loss to the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Garnett (16 minutes) was held scoreless for the first time in 139 career playoff games, while Blatche missed a key layup in the third quarter that could’ve brought the Nets within 56-54. Instead, the Heat countered with a 14-2 run, turning what was a close game into a rout.

Overall, Miami outscored Brooklyn by a whopping 52-28 margin in the paint. The Heat shot 56.8 percent from the field and outscored the Nets 33-23 in the third.

“We couldn’t protect the paint there to start the game,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said. “And then pretty much the whole game we couldn’t keep them outta the paint. That’s something that we’ve gotta look at to get better at.”

LeBron James scored 22 points for the Heat and was able to attack at will. Chris Bosh added 15 points and 11 rebounds. Three other Miami players finished in double figures -- Ray Allen (19), Dwyane Wade (14) and Mario Chalmers (12).

“It just came down to defense tonight,” Deron Williams said. “Our defensive game plan wasn’t executed at all. We made a lot of defensive mistakes. We allowed them to roam free. I know I got beat on a lot of backdoor cuts. It was just kind of the theme of the night. Just layups, layups, layups.”

The Nets battled the Heat hard for a half. Miami led by four with 7:13 left in the third, when Blatche couldn’t convert from point-blank range. Three minutes, eight seconds later -- ignited by a 3-pointer and a three-point play by Bosh -- it was 70-54 Heat.

“We had one difficult quarter, the third quarter,” said Paul Pierce, who hit two early 3-pointers but finished with just eight points and six rebounds. “For the most part, we were in the game, but we've got to do a better job with our defense. You know, I thought we allowed too many points in the paint, they got a lot of layups, so there's some things that we've definitely got to clean up. You can't give a team like Miami this many layups, this many points in the paint. ... I just thought that they was the aggressors all night.”

Said Garnett, who recorded a double-double in Game 7 against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday: “We made mistakes, they made us pay for them, back cuts, cutting to the basket, being very aggressive. We need to tear a page out of that book and just be as aggressive next game.”