Brooklyn Nets: Miami Heat

MIAMI -- A season that began with so much promise, with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett talking championship in July, ended in mid-May, with LeBron James standing on a table at half court, furiously pounding his chest in celebration.

The Brooklyn Nets blew a nine-point lead in the final 5 minutes, 34 seconds, as LeBron smothered their title hopes with championship-caliber defense to snatch the game, 96-94, and the series.

The Nets were officially done in by a 16-5 Heat run to finish the game. But the real reason the Nets lost this series was they simply didn’t have a clutch player who could make winning plays or a big-time basket, or even draw a foul against LeBron and the Miami Heat in the final two minutes.

Sure, this series might’ve been different if the Nets had a healthy Brook Lopez. But that thinking went out the door back in December, when Lopez was ruled out for the season.

The Nets still should’ve had enough to beat the Heat, who gave Brooklyn ample opportunities to take this series. The Heat never really played their best in five games, and they didn’t need to.

[+] EnlargeJoe Johnson
Robert Mayer/USA TODAY SportsJoe Johnson scored a playoff-high 34 points but needed at least two more to keep the Nets alive.
If Joe Johnson, or anybody else, for that matter, could’ve hit two or three big shots at the end of Games 4 and 5, the Nets might be going back to Brooklyn with the series lead instead of returning home to pack for the summer.

Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov spent nearly $200 million to win a title. In the end, all that money bought him was a roster full of former All-Stars who no longer could hit clutch shots or even earn the respect of the officials and get a pivotal whistle late in the game.

Johnson, who carried the Nets in the postseason, scored 34 points, with 24 coming in a scintillating second half that saw him repeatedly torch James with an array of rainbow shots. But after Johnson buried a 20-foot step-back jumper over James to give the Nets a 91-83 lead with 4:49 left, James showed the Nets what they were missing.

James buried a 3-pointer and played air-tight defense on Johnson. He denied Johnson the ball, and when Joe would finally catch it, he had to force a difficult shot. When the Nets tried calling Pierce’s number late, the former Celtic couldn’t deliver against his former teammate Ray Allen, who drilled the 3-pointer that put the Heat ahead for good with 32 seconds to go.

Twice, the Nets went to Pierce against Allen, liking that matchup, only to see Pierce miss a 15-footer and 16-footer.

The Nets even called Shaun Livingston's number, posting the 6-foot-7 guard on Dwyane Wade and getting the 5-foot shot they wanted. Livingston missed, and the Nets felt that Wade fouled on the shot.

Brooklyn, though, learned the hard way that there would be no call. The champs had earned that kind of respect from the refs. The Nets? Their All-Star résumés didn’t matter anymore against James, as evidenced by their inability to draw a sixth foul against him late in Game 4 or draw calls at the end of Game 5.

When the Nets were within one point late, James clearly fouled Pierce on the sideline, forcing the ball out of bounds. But after review, the officials just gave the ball to the Nets instead of calling a foul with five seconds remaining. Fouls cannot be assessed on video review.

The Nets inbounded the ball to Johnson, but Allen poked the ball out. Johnson collected the ball, only to have James knock it out again as time expired.

“Yeah, I felt like I was fouled,” Johnson said.

The Nets’ season ended with Johnson unable to get a final shot off. It might not have mattered anyway because the Nets had missed nine of their last 10 shots.

[+] EnlargeLeBron James
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesThe Nets need what Miami has: a big-time player who makes clutch plays in key moments.
So, what now for the Nets?

The Nets played unbelievable basketball at times after their tumultuous 10-21 start. Jason Kidd proved he can coach. Johnson showed he has plenty left in his tank.

Pierce is an unrestricted free agent. The Nets own his Bird rights and can pay him more than they can pay anybody else. But does Pierce want to return? He said he has one or two years left in him, and the former Celtic wants to win another title. That likely would mean going to another team.

Garnett has one year left on his contract, but he has contemplated retirement before and could again. Garnett certainly wants to play for a title if he comes back as well.

But the uncertainty surrounding the Nets’ future is more than just Pierce and Garnett. What about the two pillars the franchise is supposed to be built on, in Deron Williams and Lopez?

Williams, marred by injuries, was a disappointment this season. He was supposed to return to elite point guard status under Kidd’s direction. Instead, Williams looked like a maximum contract player without maximum confidence, disappearing at times during the playoffs.

Williams is supposed to be the present and future of this franchise. Instead, Williams looks like just as much of a question mark as Pierce and Garnett.

If Pierce and Garnett opt not to return, the Nets have to seriously consider hitting the reset button and trying to get out of cap hell.

Their biggest trading chip is Williams, who is still just 29 and has plenty of time to revive his All-Star game. Maybe all Williams needs is to get healthy again. But the Nets could decide that maybe they are better off starting over and trying to make a run at Kevin Durant in a few seasons.

And there’s Lopez, the oft-injured 26-year-old center who has to prove he can stay healthy after yet another foot surgery. Another major question mark.

Brooklyn could try to persuade Garnett and Pierce to return for one more run, selling them on how good the team looked after Jan. 1 and how a full season together, with a healthy Lopez and a more experienced Kidd at coach, could allow them to make one more title run.

But an already old Nets roster would be a year older with even more wear and tear. They need to get younger, more athletic and bigger, all despite having serious cap limitations.

But most of all, these Nets needed a clutch go-to guy who can make the winning shot and get calls in the final two minutes. As it turns out, Miami painfully showed that Brooklyn doesn’t have that player on its $200 million roster.

And until the Nets somehow find that player, their championship dreams will end the same way it did here in Miami in mid-May, with LeBron pounding his chest showing why he’s the man to beat.

Rapid Reaction: Heat 102, Nets 96

May, 12, 2014

NEW YORK -- The Miami Heat may not be unbeatable, but LeBron James is most definitely unstoppable.

James made Paul Pierce eat his words on Monday night, erupting for a playoff career-high-tying 49 points in Game 4, as the Brooklyn Nets fell to the Heat 102-96 at Barclays Center.

The Heat now lead the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series 3-1.

Pierce told Nets coach Jason Kidd he wanted the assignment of guarding James. But on Monday night, James was unguardable.

He had 12 points in the first quarter, 13 in the second quarter, 15 in the third quarter -- including a stretch of 13 straight -- and nine in the fourth quarter. He got into the paint at will. The Nets had no chance to stop him.

With the game tied at 94, Brooklyn decided to double-team James with 57 seconds left. His hockey assist off that double led to Chris Bosh's go-ahead 3-pointer from the corner.

James scored 22 points in Games 1 and 2, then had 28 in Game 3. He had 25 by halftime in Game 4.

The Nets hit just two field goals in the final 7:24 -- one in the final 4:24 -- going ice-cold down the stretch.

What it means: The NBA’s most expensive team is on the verge of playoff elimination. Just eight teams out of 217 in league history have ever come back from 3-1 down to win a series (3.7 percent). Bottom line: The Nets are in trouble.

The Truth: Pierce had seven of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, as the Nets overcame a nine-point, third-quarter deficit to take the lead for the first time since the second quarter in the final period. It didn’t last, as Brooklyn’s offense fizzled in crunch time.

D-Will: Deron Williams had his best performance since Game 1, scoring 13 points, dishing out seven assists and grabbing six rebounds. Williams, who shot 3-for-20 from the field in the previous two games, went 5-for-14 Monday night. Despite getting in early foul trouble, Williams continually attacked the paint, but he didn’t make enough plays in the second half.

Stat so: The Heat shot 52.9 percent from the field, while the Nets, who hit a franchise playoff-record 15 3-pointers in Game 3, went just 5-for-22 from downtown in Game 4. Kevin Garnett had eight points and seven rebounds. Shaun Livingston had 13 points and four assists.

Joey Ice: Joe Johnson appeared to hurt his left hand in the third quarter and had ice on it as he sat on the bench. He would return in the fourth quarter but missed a key floater late in the game. Johnson finished with 18 points on 5-for-15 shooting.

Chippy early: James, Shane Battier, Alan Anderson and Pierce were called for double-technical fouls in the first quarter. James was jostling in the post with Pierce, who was assessed his second foul. The heated rivals then exchanged words, with James knocking the ball out of Anderson’s hands after the foul was called. Anderson didn’t like that.

Who’s in the house: Boxer Floyd Mayweather, former New Jersey Devil Ilya Kovalchuk, actors Denzel Washington, Jason Sudeikis and Olivia Wilde, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, New York Knicks No. 1 fan Spike Lee, and, of course, Jay Z and Beyonce.

Up next: Game 5 on Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Nets shut down LeBron, for once

May, 11, 2014
NEW YORK -- There’s dominance, and then there’s dominance, and LeBron James looked like he was finally going to have one of those absolutely dominant performances.

Not like the back-to-back 22-point efforts he produced in Games 1 and 2. Those were really impressive, if not memorable. But this was different. This was dominance.

James had scored 16 points in the first quarter on Saturday, missing only one of his first seven field-goal attempts. And the way he was dominating the Brooklyn Nets, converting three-point plays seemingly at will, it felt as though it was going to be a special night.

But the Nets clamped down defensively on the four-time MVP/two-time NBA champion the rest of the way, holding him to 12 points on 2-for-8 shooting over the final three quarters.

And by the end of the night, James had failed to reach the 30-point mark, and the Nets had earned themselves a 104-90 victory over the King’s Miami Heat in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“LeBron had his good numbers and shot the ball well, but we limited the other guys and that’s gonna be key for us,” Paul Pierce said.

James (28 points on 8-for-15 shooting) got his. Dwyane Wade (20 points on 9-for-18 shooting) did too.

But the rest of Miami’s players combined to score 42 points and shoot 40 percent from the field. The Heat scored just 33 points in the second and third quarters, as the Nets pulled away, draining a franchise single-game playoff record 15 3-pointers.

Points in the paint had been decidedly in Miami’s favor in the first two games of the series. But in Game 3, it was Heat 26, Nets 26. Only eight of Miami’s paint points came in the second half on 4-for-11 shooting.

“We just loaded up, obviously,” Kevin Garnett said of Brooklyn’s defensive strategy on James. “We know that they are going to get their volume of shots, and we tried to control their B guys, the guys coming off the bench, and I thought we did that. We kept Ray Allen under control at times and we built ourselves a lead.”

Allen, who had scored 32 points in Games 1 and 2, shot 2-for-6 from the field in Game 3. Chris Bosh had just 12 points and five rebounds on 5-for-11 shooting.

The Nets also controlled the glass, outrebounding the Heat, 43-27 and giving up only five offensive boards.

James got going against Pierce, hitting four of his five first-quarter shots. But in the final three quarters, James went 0-for-2 from the field when guarded by Pierce. Overall, James is shooting 50 percent when guarded by Pierce in the series (8-for-16).

“It’s a 48-minute game,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said. “I’m not counting how many times you score. I’m looking at how many shots he’s taking and he was making them in the first quarter. We didn’t lose patience and we stuck with the game-plan and we found a way to win.”

Rapid Reaction: Nets 104, Heat 90

May, 10, 2014
NEW YORK -- Now that’s how you play with your season on the line.

The Brooklyn Nets avoided falling into a 3-0 hole on Saturday night, blowing out the the Miami Heat at Barclays Center 104-90 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Brooklyn led by as many as 22.

The Heat lead the best-of-seven playoff series 2-1.

What it means: The Nets, with their backs against the wall, got themselves right back in the series and will have a chance to even things up at two in Game 4 on Monday night.

Brooklyn shot 52.8 percent from the field and made a franchise playoff-record 15 3-pointers on 25 attempts.

D-Will delivers: Coming off the first scoreless playoff game of his career, Deron Williams dished out 11 assists and scored nine points in 40 minutes. The Nets outscored the Heat by 18 points with Williams on the floor. This was exactly the type of response Brooklyn needed from its $98 million point guard.

So does KG: Kevin Garnett, who had just two field goals in the first two games of the series, had 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting in 23 minutes on Saturday night. He added seven rebounds.

Turning point: The Nets outscored the Heat 26-14 in the third quarter to take a 77-64 lead into the fourth quarter. They shot 61.1 percent in the quarter and went 4-for-6 from 3-point range. It all started when the Nets used a 9-0 run midway through the third to open up a 68-56 lead -- their biggest lead of the series. Mirza Teletovic had nine of his 12 points in the third.

Tensions escalate: With 9:34 left in the fourth quarter, Alan Anderson and Ray Allen got tangled up and came face to face. It appeared as though Anderson brushed Allen’s arm away as the two were separated. Each was hit with a technical foul.

Young Seymour: Andray Blatche, who played just four minutes in Game 2, had 13 of his playoff career-high 15 points in the first half. Blatche also pulled down 10 rebounds, becoming the first Nets reserve in 20 years to record a double-double off the bench.

And the others: Joe Johnson, consistent as ever, scored a team-high 19 points and went 5-for-7 from 3-point range. Paul Pierce added 14 points. Shaun Livingston also finished in double figures (12).

AK-47: Andrei Kirilenko, who did not play in Game 2, spent some time playing center in an extremely small lineup.

King James: LeBron James finished with a game-high 28 points -- 16 in the first quarter. Dwyane Wade added 20 points, but the Heat didn’t get much production from anyone else.

In attendance: Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, Jay-Z and Beyonce, comedian Jerry Seinfeld, actor Jake Gyllenhaal, rapper Busta Rhymes, actors Jason Sudeikis and Olivia Wilde and Mets legend Dwight Gooden.

Up next: Game 4 on Monday night in Brooklyn.

Rapid Reaction: Heat 94, Nets 82

May, 8, 2014
This series could be over shortly.

The Brooklyn Nets were much more competitive in Game 2 than they were in Game 1.

But the end result was still the same.

The Nets got outplayed by the Miami Heat in the fourth quarter and fell 94-82 on Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The two-time defending NBA champions lead the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals series 2-0.

What it means: The Nets have never won a best-of-seven series when trailing 0-2 (0-4). The Heat have never lost a best-of-seven series when leading 2-0 in the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh era (6-0).

Teams that take a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven series go on to win the series 93.8 percent of the time, according to data from ESPN Stats & Information (242-16). Bottom line: The Nets are in huge trouble.

Turning point: Remember Andray Blatche's missed layup in the third quarter of Game 1 that led to a 14-2 Heat run? Well, the same type of thing happened again in Game 2. Only this time it was Garnett missing a layup that would’ve gotten the Nets within 82-79 in the fourth quarter.

Instead, Ray Allen hit a 3-pointer on Miami’s ensuing possession, putting the Heat up 85-77. In the final 6:54, the Nets had just two field goals. They got outscored 25-15 in the fourth quarter. Garnett did not hit his first field goal of the series until the 10:56 mark of the third quarter. Garnett finished with four points and 12 rebounds on 2-for-8 shooting in 21 minutes.

The missing ($98 million) man: Deron Williams was held scoreless for the first time in his 60-game playoff career. Williams went 0-for-9 from the field, adding seven rebounds and six assists. Not good enough for a franchise player in a must-win game. Not good enough at all.

The Big Three: James got whatever he wanted again, scoring 22 points on 9-for-18 shooting. Bosh added 18 points and six rebounds, while Wade added eight of his 14 points in the fourth.

That was bad: The Nets shot just 42.3 percent overall and went 8-for-24 from 3-point range and 8-for-14 from the free throw line. They had 14 turnovers. Shaun Livingston was good and had 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting, but Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson had just 13 each.

No freebies: The Nets did not attempt a single free throw in the first half, the first time that has happened since the 1996-97 season, according to data from ESPN Stats & Information. They attempted one free throw in a half on two different occasions this season. The Nets didn’t get to the line until the 8:08 mark of the third quarter.

MT3: Mirza Teletovic entered Thursday night’s game just 9-for-35 from 3-point range in the playoffs. But he hit his first four 3s -- and finished 6-for-9 from downtown. His six 3s were a franchise single-game record.

Packing the paint: The Nets didn’t want the Heat to score 52 points in the paint again. So they packed the paint. It worked early on. Miami went just 1-for-8 from 3-point range in the first quarter, and Brooklyn held it to just 15 points -- its fewest points in a quarter this postseason. The Heat wound up shooting 49.3 percent overall and 10-for-24 from downtown.

Up next: Game 3 on Saturday night at Barclays Center

W2W4: Nets at Heat, Game 2

May, 8, 2014
The Brooklyn Nets do not want to return home trailing 0-2 to the two-time defending NBA champions. That won’t happen if the Nets can steal Game 2 against the Miami Heat on Thursday night (7 p.m., ESPN 2) at AmericanAirlines Arena. The Heat lead the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals series 1-0. Here’s what we’ll be watching for:

1-1 or probably done: The Heat have never lost a series in the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh era when up 2-0 (6-0). The Nets have never won a best-of-seven NBA playoff series when down 0-2 (0-4). So yes, this game is huge. Teams that take a 2-0 lead in a best-of-7 series go on to win the series 93.8 percent of the time, according to ESPN Stats & Information (242-16).

Adjustments needed: In their 107-86 loss to the Heat in Game 1, the Nets got outscored in the paint 52-28 and allowed the Heat to shoot 56.8 percent from the field. LeBron James, no surprise, got whatever he wanted inside, scoring 22 points on 10-for-15 shooting. Brooklyn needs to clamp down defensively and not settle for so many jumpers and isolation plays on offense.

Pick it up: Aside from Deron Williams (17 points) and Joe Johnson (17 points), there weren’t many bright spots. Kevin Garnett went scoreless for the first time in his 139-game playoff career, while Paul Pierce (eight points, six rebounds) was ineffective after knocking down a pair of early 3-pointers. Pierce and Garnett did not talk to the media after Wednesday’s practice, and Pierce declined comment on Thursday morning. The Nets need more from the former Boston Celtics in Game 2. Much more. Their starters went to the free-throw line just two times, a telling sign that they need to get to the basket and draw some shooting fouls.

MIAMI -- LeBron James backed down Shaun Livingston with ease, missed a short shot before hauling in his own miss and scoring a layup with no resistance.

Less than a minute later in the third, James shifted into his locomotive gear in transition, buried his shoulder into Andray Blatche and scored easily on a drive that was part of a 15-2 Miami run.

James immediately began jawing and pounding his chest.

[+] EnlargeLeBron James
Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty ImagesLeBron James drove home a stern message to the Nets in Game 1: This is big boy basketball now, fellas.
The Nets? They looked like they wanted no part of this fight with the defending champs.

In Tuesday’s Game 1, the best player on the planet reminded the Nets they are no longer in Toronto. And this certainly isn’t the regular season anymore, either.

Joe Johnson may like the way the Nets match up with the Heat. But in Game 1, the Nets were completely outmatched and outclassed by the champs in a 107-86 rout at American Airlines Arena.

Brooklyn didn’t look anything like the only team to ever complete a four-game, regular-season sweep of James. Perhaps that’s because the Heat didn’t look anything like the team the Nets beat in the regular season.

The Nets were assembled with the dual goal of beating the Heat and winning a title. They wanted Miami in the playoffs. And in the series opener, the $200 million team looked softer than ice cream melting in the South Beach sun.

Jason Kidd watched as his team allowed the Heat to score 52 points in the paint and shoot 56.8 percent. In other words, the Nets offered zero resistance inside the paint.

“Our defensive game plan wasn’t executed at all,” said Deron Williams, whose 17 points and 7-of-10 shooting was wasted by poor defense. “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.”

Seeing the Heat win Game 1 wasn’t surprising. But here's the alarming part: A Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett-led team allowed James and the Heat to do whatever they wanted.


Worried about the Nets?


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Pierce said before Game 1 that there was a “dislike” between him and James from all their playoff battles in the past, since the two are chasing the same thing -- a title.

It would have been nice to see a hint of that "dislike" on display inside the paint. Charles Oakley would have been disgusted with the fact there wasn’t a single hard foul delivered on James or Dwyane Wade.

This is the playoffs, and yet James barely broke a sweat, scoring just 22 points and going to the line only two times. Wade had 14 points and didn’t even make a trip to the line.

On the other side, Pierce scored eight points and didn’t play in the fourth, with the game mostly out of reach. Garnett played a minute in the final quarter but finished the game scoreless -- the first time he failed to score a point in 139 playoff games.

The Nets looked every bit like a team that needed a series-winning block to survive the inexperienced Raptors, while the Heat looked like a two-time defending champion coming off an eight-day rest between series.

And the Nets didn’t just run into a rested two-time champion. They ran into a motivated one. How many times did the Heat hear about how the Nets had their number in the regular season, Pierce and Garnett play James harder than anybody else in the postseason, and the Nets present all sorts of matchup problems? Probably about as many times as they scored in the paint in Game 1.

“You got to think about it,” Garnett said. “If you are a competitor, and you keep hearing it over and over, and you got time to rest and sit back and watch the team and continue to hear that, you got to think competitive juices are going to [take over].”

[+] EnlargeNets
AP Photo/Lynne SladkyThe Nets looked lifeless in Tuesday's Game 1 loss.
“I just thought with that being kind of gasoline on the fire, they came out running at home like they were supposed to,” he added.

Now the Nets must respond with some fight or this series will be over a lot quicker than anybody thought. Kidd has to make the necessary adjustments after Erik Spoelstra had his team coming out in attack mode. Garnett and Pierce have to inject some toughness into this team.

“It was a three-point game at the half, fellas,” said Pierce, who like many of the Nets remained confident after the blowout loss. “We are not overreacting. We feel like we still can get a game in this building.”

LeBron bullied the Nets in Game 1. The Nets offered no resistance. Now they must retaliate in Game 2.

Time to find out what Brooklyn is made of.

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

May, 6, 2014
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.”

Rapid Reaction: Heat 107, Nets 86

May, 6, 2014

The Brooklyn Nets' regular-season dominance over the Miami Heat is nothing more than ancient history now.

The Nets were outclassed by the two-time defending champions in a 107-86 blowout loss in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.

What it means: Going into this best-of-seven series, the general consensus was that while the Nets were the underdogs, they could give the Heat problems. For a half, Brooklyn went toe-to-toe with Miami.

Then, with 7:13 remaining in the third quarter, the game turned. Andray Blatche missed a point-blank layup that would’ve brought the Nets within 56-54, and the Heat countered with a 14-2 run to take a 70-54 lead with 4:05 left in the third. Miami outscored Brooklyn 33-23 in the quarter.

The Nets needed to instill some fear in the Heat -- at the very least showing that they should be taken seriously. So much for that. Game 2 is basically a must-win, because the Nets don’t want to be down 2-0 heading back to Brooklyn.

Miami, showing no signs of rust after its long eight-day layoff, coasted in the fourth quarter. Nets coach Jason Kidd rested his starters in the fourth, essentially waiving the white flag.

The difference: The Heat outscored the Nets 52-28 in the paint. Miami made it a point to attack from the beginning, while Brooklyn settled for way too many perimeter jumpers.

Brooklyn’s backcourt shows up: Deron Williams (17 points) and Joe Johnson (17 points) were efficient and productive offensively, combining to shoot 14-for-21 from the field. Williams, who received a pair of injections in his left ankle prior to Game 6 of the team’s first-round series, was moving really well and hit a pair of long buzzer-beating 3-pointers at the end of the second and third quarters. Johnson had eight points in the second quarter, and the Nets trailed 46-43 at the half.

Can’t contain the King: The Nets put a myriad of defenders on LeBron James, but it didn’t matter. He was unstoppable. James shot 10-for-15 from the field, scored 22 points and added five rebounds and three assists. He became the youngest player in NBA history to score 4,000 career playoff points.

Stats ugly: The Heat shot 56.8 percent from the field. Ray Allen (19 points), Chris Bosh (15 points), Dwyane Wade (14 points) and Mario Chalmers (12 points) also scored in double figures.

12-14: Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were non-factors and fell to 12-14 in their careers against archrival James in the playoffs. Pierce (eight points, six rebounds) hit a couple 3-pointers early before disappearing, while Garnett went scoreless in 16 minutes for the first time in his playoff career. Garnett’s backups provided nothing behind him. Blatche and Mason Plumlee were 2-for-7 from the field.

Up next: Game 2 on Thursday night (7 p.m.)

Nets-Heat series schedule

May, 4, 2014
Game 1: Tues. May 6, Brooklyn at Miami, 7 p.m., TNT

Game 2: Thurs. May 8, Brooklyn at Miami, 7 p.m., ESPN2

Game 3: Sat. May 10, Miami at Brooklyn, 8 p.m., ABC

Game 4: Mon. May 12, Miami at Brooklyn, 8 p.m., TNT

Game 5*: Wed. May 14, Brooklyn at Miami, TBD, TNT

Game 6*: Fri. May 16, Miami at Brooklyn, TBD, ESPN

Game 7*: Sun. May 18, Brooklyn at Miami, TBD, ABC

*if necessary

Favorite Nets-Heat moments

April, 9, 2014

The Brooklyn Nets are the first team to go 4-0 against the Miami Heat in the regular season during the Heat's Big Three era.

Here are four moments that stood out as the two teams battled one another:

1. The Rook swats The King: LeBron James went up for the game-winning dunk Tuesday night, but Mason Plumlee said: Sorry, LeBron. Not in my house. Plumlee blocked James’ attempt, time expired and the Nets completed a four-game sweep of the two-time defending champion.

2. Livingston’s deflection: With the Heat trailing by one on March 12, Chris Bosh tried to inbound the ball to James on the team’s final possession. Big mistake. Shaun Livingston got his hand on the pass, the clock ran out and the Nets escaped Miami with their first road triumph.

3. Mirza smirks: In the fourth quarter on Jan. 10, Mirza Teletovic wrapped up James as the Heat star was driving to the basket. James felt Teletovic got him in the neck area and it “wasn’t a basketball play.” James got upset at Teletovic and got in his face. Teletovic responded with a smirk. He brought the smirk back after Tuesday night’s game.

4. Pierce sends a message: Paul Pierce's playoff-style foul on James during a meaningless Oct. 17 preseason game set the tone for what was to come during the regular season. “That’s our identity. That’s a message to the league,” Pierce said.

Question: What is your favorite moment? Let us know in the comments section below.

Starting Five: Takes a team to stop LeBron

March, 12, 2014
NEW YORK -- LeBron James has killed the Brooklyn Nets throughout his career.

Although the Miami Heat is 0-2 against Brooklyn this season, James is averaging 31 points on 57.5 percent shooting in those meetings.

[+] EnlargeLeBron James; Paul Pierce
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesCan the Nets hold LeBron James under 20 points on Wednesday?
He has scored 20 or more points in each of his last 22 games against the Nets, the second-longest streak of 20-point games versus the Nets in franchise history, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The only player with a longer streak is Michael Jordan, who scored 20-plus points in 39 consecutive games against the Nets from December 1984 through April 1995.

As Deron Williams said, guarding James has to be a team effort. It can’t just be one guy.

That’s pretty much how the Nets have been able to turn their season around, using that next-man-up mantra. And that’s how they’ll have to approach Wednesday night’s game in Miami, the seventh straight game in which they won’t have Kevin Garnett, who continues to be bothered by back spasms.

The Nets have gone 5-1 without Garnett in the month of March, however.

Their March stats (with NBA rank):

Opponents turnovers: 22.7 (first)
Steals: 13.7 (first)
Points per 100 possessions allowed: 97.0 (second)
Rebounds for: 31.7 (last)
Rebounds against: 45.0 (tied for fourth most)
Rebound differential: 13.3 (second worst)

Question: How do you expect the Nets to fair against the Heat on Wednesday night?

In case you missed it: KG is out and Andrei Kirilenko is questionable, while the Nets are looking to match the Heat’s intensity.

More stats (courtesy ESPN Stats & Info): The Nets went 0-9 against Miami’s Big Three (James, Wade and Bosh) prior to this season, losing by an average of 17.3 points in those games. ... Joe Johnson is averaging 25.5 points on 60.6 percent shooting in two games against the Heat this season. ... Paul Pierce is putting up 21.0 points in two games against the Heat, well above his season average of 13.2 PPG (a career low).

Up next: Nets at Heat on Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena (ESPN).

AK-47: LeBron 'escalated the conflict'

January, 12, 2014
LeBron James may think otherwise, but Brooklyn Nets forward Andrei Kirilenko said he didn't flop in Friday's 104-95 win in double overtime over the Miami Heat. James, who fouled out for the sixth time in his career, said after the game he thought Kirilenko flopped a few times.

"It’s all right," Kirilenko told The Record (N.J.). "I don’t really care, I don’t take it personally. ... He’s a strong guy, he tries to overpower his defenders. And every time he’s trying to [get] open, he has to use his force. I didn’t flop. That’s what I can tell you."

Kirilenko was one of the Nets assigned the tough task of guarding James during Friday's battle. James was whistled for his sixth foul in the first overtime when he drove into the lane and was called for a charge on Shaun Livingston. While the Heat were able to force a second overtime, the Nets pulled away in that last stanza.

"I thought Kirilenko flopped a few times to be honest about it, and he got the call," James said after the game. "The last one that fouled me out could've been a charge for sure. He put his hands on me as I drove and that got him off balance and he got the call. But he definitely flopped a few times."

Kirilenko told The Record that the Nets' plan on defense was to "be annoying" to James by crowding him. James still scored 36 points.

One player who particularly annoyed James was Nets forward Mirza Teletovic, who was whistled for a flagrant foul 1 after he wrapped his arms around James while the reigning MVP drove to the basket in the fourth quarter. James went at Teletovic, although the two never came to blows. Teletovic smiled at James while they were being separated.
Kirilenko believes James made too big a deal out of the foul.

"I think he escalated the conflict rather than just let it go," Kirilenko told the paper. "I was a little bit surprised because it wasn’t a situation to get into a fight, Mirza just tried to slow him down and understand that something is going wrong so he let him go right away. [LeBron] just overreacted a little bit."

Remember when the Nets beat the Heat?

January, 9, 2014
PierceAl Bello/Getty ImagesPaul Pierce dropped 19 points on Miami in November.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- On Nov. 1, the Nets looked like a team to be reckoned with, knocking off the Heat 101-100 in Brooklyn's home opener.

On the eve of the rematch Friday at Barclays Center, the Nets don't resemble a force anymore, looking more like a pretender than contender in the watered-down Eastern Conference.

Things have changed in the past two months.

"That [win] seems like a very, very long time ago," Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson said at practice Thursday. "Obviously we're a different team and we're trying to find our niche so to speak and take care of home court. This is definitely a big game for us."

The Nets have put together a season-best four-game win streak, and will try to recapture some of the magic from their first encounter with the Heat when Miami visits for the second of four meetings between the teams this season. The Nets recently defeated both Oklahoma City and Golden State.

"It's going to be a tough game. It's going to be playoff atmosphere. It's basically going to be a playoff game," Nets center Andray Blatche said. "We beat them before. They're going to be aggressive off the jump. Got to be just as aggressive."

After their active offseason headlined by acquiring Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the Nets figured to be one of the top teams to challenge Miami in the East. In their second game, they showcased their potential with the win over Miami.

Since then, it's been a struggle. While the Heat enter Thursday's game against the Knicks at 27-8, the Nets have won just 13 games since. They've also been crippled with injuries, losing center Brook Lopez for the season after he underwent foot surgery, and point guard Deron Williams will be sidelined for his 14th game as his left foot continues to cause problems.

"Probably looking at two different teams from where we've gone and for them," Nets coach Jason Kidd said. "It's a matter of us continuing to do what we've been doing, get better at what we've been building on. Understand turnovers, you got to take care of the ball against the Heat. Also get good looks."

In beating Oklahoma City and Golden State, the Nets again hinted at their potential. They showed resiliency by coming back from 17 down to upset the Thunder, and were able to hold off a Golden State team that had won 10 straight.

With those Western Conference powers vanquished, the Nets will now see if they can keep it going against the reigning NBA champs.

"It's a big challenge. We're looking forward to it. We know we can compete with any team in this league," Johnson said. "Even with the fact that Deron's out, Brook's out, we got to go with the guys we got and guys have to step up. That's pretty much how it's been over the past four games."

Heat have taken notice of Brooklyn's moves

October, 17, 2013
NEW YORK -- The two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat took notice of what the Brooklyn Nets accomplished this offseason.

And yes, the Heat were impressed.

“They did what they said they were going to do,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. “They want to compete for a championship.”

During the summer, Nets general manger Billy King completed a blockbuster trade with the Boston Celtics to acquire future Hall of Fame forwards Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. In the deal, the Nets also got reserve sharpshooter Jason Terry.

King also signed Andrei Kirilenko and Andray Blatche to friendly contracts and brought in Shaun Livingston to back up starter Deron Williams.

“How do you not respect it? Really. They had a terrific summer,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It is not easy to accumulate that type of talent and have that many All-Stars on the same team. And you could feel the excitement from the offseason that they have.

“We respect that. We knew the competition would get better. We knew an organization like this wouldn’t stand pat and they would push to get better.”

The Heat battled the KG/Pierce-led Celtics in the playoffs.

“You had to kill those guys, they wouldn’t stop,” Heat forward LeBron James said. “They got me a few times, and I was able to get them a few times.”

When asked if he thought the rivalry with KG and Pierce would continue now that they’re in Brooklyn, Wade responded, “Yes.”

When asked if the Nets could challenge the Heat for the Eastern Conference title, James responded, “I have no idea.”



Brook Lopez
16.6 0.6 0.5 28.3
ReboundsB. Lopez 7.1
AssistsD. Williams 6.3
StealsT. Young 1.3
BlocksB. Lopez 1.7