Everyone knew the Brooklyn Nets were improved after the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trade, but the big question was — can they beat the Miami Heat? The answer that appears to be an emphatic yes. The Nets just barely edged out the Heat in Miami 88-87 on Tuesday night in Miami to improve to 4-0 on the season against the two-time defending NBA champions.
LeBron James played a great game as he finished with 29 points and 10 rebounds, but a Mason Plumlee block at the buzzer kept him from beating the Nets at all during this regular season. After the play, LeBron looked as if he was in disbelief that he didn’t draw a foul on the play, but replay clearly showed that Plumlee pulled off the clean block.
“My initial thought was to just foul and make him earn it at the free-throw line,” Plumlee said of LeBron, who has been a 74.7 percent shooter from the line during his career.
Obviously the Heat didn’t think it was a clean play after the game. Replays did show that Joe Johnson might have touched LeBron just as he went to the hoop, but since LeBron wasn’t impeded in any way by Johnson it is hard to know for sure. Rashard Lewis had an chance for a layup leading just before the final play, but deferred to LeBron instead. If he didn’t do that, Plumlee’s block wouldn’t have been a thing.
“That’s just basketball,” Jason Kidd said. “You have the best player in the world going against a rookie and we got lucky.”
That shot was only necessary after Joe Johnson missed a last second shot attempt that would have put the Nets up by three. Johnson finished with 19 on 9-for-17 from the floor. Marcus Thornton had 16, Paul Pierce had 14 and Mirza Teletovic had 11. Deron Williams was mostly absent from the game. Despite playing 34 minutes, D-Will finished with just eight points and six assists.
Kevin Garnett sat this one out after he played over the weekend. Andray Blatche missed the game with an illness, but Andrei Kirielenko did manage to play 10 minutes.
This was a wild game. The Nets got out to an early 13-point lead in the first quarter when Johnson scored seven and the team shot 55 percent overall. The Heat came right back in the second though as LeBron and Rashard Lewis each had seven points. The second half was a close, back and forth match. The game only swung in the Nets favor in the final minute and a half thanks to some timely defense.
These four wins against the Heat have been impressive, but there was just a one-point difference in three of the contests. The one game that bucked that trend was a double-overtime game in Brooklyn so these games have been outright battles. Of course, none of it will matter at all if they face each other in the playoffs, but the Nets should have good confidence going into that series if it ever happens.
The Nets are right back at it Wednesday night as they head to Orlando to face the Magic. That game should be an easy win for the Nets, but they have struggled against the Magic already this season and have been notoriously bad in the second game of back-to-backs.
The Nets are still in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, two-games behind both the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors.