MIAMI -- Shaquille O'Neal repeated the words often, perhaps
only to provide himself much-needed reassurance.
"I've been in this situation before," O'Neal kept saying after
practice Tuesday, 18 hours or so removed from the debacle that was
Miami's effort in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals
against New Jersey.
And yes, O'Neal has been in this situation -- a 1-0 hole in a
playoff series -- before, 12 other times to be exact. His teams have
rallied to prevail in only three of those series, and if the Heat
want to be the fourth entry on that list, they could certainly use
a victory in Game 2 on Wednesday night.
"It's nothing to be worried about," O'Neal said. "It's
nothing to panic about. We just know that we didn't do anything
right last night."
The Nets jumped on the Heat early in Game 1, feasting on nine
first-quarter turnovers on the way to building a 17-point edge
after 12 minutes, and eventually wound up with a 100-88 victory
that New Jersey guard Jason Kidd said only looked easy.
"It's never easy on the road against a very talented team like
Miami," Kidd said. "It's never easy. They missed a lot of easy
While Miami is vowing to bring a different level of effort in
Game 2, New Jersey will probably take on a different look as well --
although it's a change the Nets would prefer not to make.
Forward Richard Jefferson has a bone bruise on his right ankle,
an injury that kept him sidelined for the final 22 minutes of the
series opener and will likely leave him sidelined on Wednesday
night; he's listed as doubtful.
"We just have to hold it down until he gets back, if that's the
case. ... His health is first," said Nets guard Vince Carter, who
scored 27 points in Game 1. "For selfish reasons, we'd like to
have him out there, pull a Willis Reed or something, but his health
is more important. We'd rather have him for the seven-game series
than Game 2."
If the Heat reprise their Game 1 play on Wednesday, Jefferson --
who had 20 points in 23 minutes in Game 1 -- won't have to hobble
onto the court like Reed famously did for the New York Knicks in
the 1970 NBA Finals.
Miami was outshot (49 percent to 39), outran (the Nets held a
21-14 lead in fast-break points), and outplayed in the opener. The
Heat called the performance "embarrassing" and vowed that
improvement is certain.
"I just need to bring more energy, more focus into the next
game because it is a very important game," said Heat guard
Dwyane Wade, who scored only five of his 25 points after halftime in Game 1. "Especially on your home floor."
All that being said, the Nets -- who lost the opener of their
first-round series at home to Indiana, but rallied to win in six
games -- truly expect to see a much better Miami team in Game 2.
"We understand how good a team this is," Nets coach Lawrence
Frank said. "They have two of the five best players in the league.
They have a great, great supporting cast around them, guys who are
future Hall of Famers and All-Stars and they have a Hall of Fame
coach. It was just one game."
Miami turned the ball over eight times in its first 12
possessions Monday, when the Nets built a 20-7 lead.
The start couldn't have gone better for New Jersey, which
silenced a sellout crowd, frustrated the Heat and got O'Neal in
foul trouble -- he was whistled for two charges, continuing a habit
that has plagued him throughout the postseason -- all by the time
the game was five minutes old.
So while New Jersey arrived for their workout Tuesday looking
relaxed and fiddling with iPod's in the locker room, Miami's mood
on the upstairs practice court was considerably less sanguine.
"A lot of times, it's the team coming off the loss that kind of
has a chip on their shoulder," Frank said. "And it's important
for the team that's won to maintain that same intent that they had
to win the game. That's why the playoffs are probably more of a
mental challenge than a physical challenge."
O'Neal-led teams rallied from 0-1 deficits in the 1998 Western
Conference semifinals (with the Los Angeles Lakers beating Seattle
in five games), the 2001 NBA Finals (over Philadelphia) and the
2004 West semifinals (over San Antonio). His team dropped Game 1 at
home in just one of those series, the 2001 Finals.
"When no one does anything right, the outcome is usually like
this," O'Neal said. "But the key is not to have two games in a
row like that."