Nets show they aren't afraid of the champs

NEW YORK -- Paul Pierce drilled a 3-pointer while being fouled by Dwyane Wade and unleashed a primal scream at a boisterous Barclays crowd.

Brooklyn was up 20 on the defending champs in the fourth quarter and Pierce and the Nets were not just sending the Heat a message -- they were screaming it out.

“That we wasn’t going to panic,” Pierce said of what the Nets let the Heat know on Saturday night. “We wanted to show them we’re not scared of them.”

It took two games but the Nets finally arrived and now they have a chance to make this a real series. After suffering second-half breakdowns in the first two games in South Beach, the Nets played like their season depended on it and it showed in a 104-90 victory over the Heat to pull within 2-1 in the series.

The Nets played with a variety of emotions ranging from urgency to desperation and aggression. They literally refused to back down as Alan Anderson even got into a scuffle with Ray Allen. But most important, they played like a balanced team that kept hitting the champs from each and every direction.

The Nets knew the odds were against them. According to ESPN Stats & Information, teams that lead 2-0 in best-of-seven series end up winning the series 93.8 percent of the time (242-16). And the Heat are 6-0 in the Big Three era after taking the first two games.

“Everybody figured, [coming] out and saying the series [is over and] talking about getting swept,” Pierce said. “I am hearing whispers and stuff. I am like, no need to panic.”

And with typical and vintage Pierce confidence, The Truth made it clear that the champs didn’t do anything special in the first two games other than do what they were supposed to do.

“They did some good things, all they did right there was hold up the home court,” Pierce said. “Now it is our job to hold up the home court.”

With a star-studded crowd that included Jerry Seinfeld, Jay-Z and Beyonce and Jake Gyllenhaal watching on, the Nets finally looked more like a $200-million team that won a franchise-record 15 straight at home earlier this season.

Joe Johnson showed why he can be a problem for the Heat, scoring 19 points and sinking his first four 3-pointers, starting a 3-point barrage against the Heat. The Nets drilled 15 treys, whipping the Barclays crowd into a frenzy.

“The crowd was off the chain,” said Kevin Garnett, who gave the Nets a huge boost with 10 points and seven rebounds. “The building was electric. Electric.”

With the crowd pumping them with adrenaline, Pierce and Garnett provided exactly what the Nets needed with emotion, leadership and a combined 24 points and 11 rebounds.

Shaun Livingston looked like a matchup problem for the Heat at times with 12 points, including a dunk as LeBron James tried to block it from behind in vain.

Deron Williams, who was scoreless in Game 2, might not have delivered a dynamic scoring game with nine points but he certainly helped set the tone early and often with 11 assists.

The Nets got a massive boost from two of their bigs -- Andray Blatche and Mirza Teletovic. Blatche, who even gave his own version of the Dream Shake at one point, had 15 points and 10 rebounds after logging just four minutes in Game 2 and contributing just one turnover. He gave the Nets a much-needed inside presence.

Meanwhile, Teletovic is holding his coming-out party against the champs, knocking down 3-pointers from everywhere. Teletovic, who drilled six treys in Game 2, hit four triples in just under eight minutes to help the Nets blow open a three-point game into an 80-63 lead early in the fourth. He also grabbed three of his six rebounds during the Nets’ 21-7 run.

Early on, the Nets watched James start the game off with 16 first-quarter points en route to a series-high 28 points, eight rebounds and five assists. And Wade had his best offensive game with 20 points. But the Heat still trailed by as much as 20 because roleplayers like Allen and Mario Chalmers combined for just 12 points. Chris Bosh also only had 12 points.

In Game 2, Bosh, Chalmers and Allen combined to score a total of 32 points.

James could still explode at any given moment as the Heat has yet to play their best game in this series. But perhaps the Nets have something to do with that through three games now. Brooklyn finally got on the board by playing perhaps its best game of the postseason.

Unlike in Miami, the Nets didn’t fall apart in the second half. Remember that possession late in Game 2 that saw the Heat grab a million offensive rebounds? On Saturday, the Nets outrebounded the Heat 43-27.

They also played Kidd ball, hitting 38 baskets on 26 assists.

At the end of the game, James stood on the court looking toward the Nets bench as Barclays celebrated a double-digit win over the champs.

It was as if James was taking a mental snapshot of the moment, already motivating himself for Game 4.

“Replaying the game in my mind some,” James said of what was on his mind. “But also just understanding that this is a series.”

On Saturday, the Nets let King James and the Heat know that they aren’t intimidated by the champs.

Now they have a chance to give the Heat a scare if they can duplicate this effort on Monday and send it back to South Beach all tied up.