The Brooklyn Nets have a tough task ahead of them in their series against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat and to beat them they are going to have to as well as they have all season over a seven game stretch. However, in Game 1 on Tuesday the Nets came out flat and were steamrolled by the Heat in a 107-86 loss in Miami.
“It came down to defense,” Deron Williams said. “Our defensive game plan wasn’t executed at all. We were just roaming free and the theme of the night was layups, layups, layups.”
Right from the start things didn’t look good for the Nets. They hung in there early, down just two points after one and down by just three going into the half, but the way the Heat were playing was ominous from the start. The Heat shot 48.7 percent in the first two quarters and dominated the Nets in the paint where they outscored them 26-10 early.
Things got out of hand in the third and, again, it wasn’t even that the Nets played poorly. They shot 55.6 percent in the third, kept up with the Heat on the boards, but, as D-Will said, they didn’t execute on defense. The Heat shot 70.6 percent in the third and with an extra rebound for Miami and three turnovers by the Nets those extra chances allowed the Heat to take a 13-point lead into the fourth quarter.
The turning point that quarter was when the Nets were down by just four points. Shaun Livingston found Andray Blatche open for an easy basket under the net, but Blatche missed the gimme, Chris Bosh took the ball down court and immediately hit a three, then, on the Heat’s next possession, Bosh picked up an and-one. Suddenly that four-point deficit turned into a 10-point crater. After that the Nets never really challenged the Heat again.
A big part of the reason why the Nets never challenged again was because Jason Kidd benched Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams to start the fourth. The group that took their spot, led by Livingston, couldn’t keep the Nets keep up with the Heat’s starters who quickly turned a 13-point lead into a 23-point lead.
After the game, Kidd explained that he was trying to rest the starters and that if the reserves got the lead back to under 10 that he would have gone back to the starters. Since that never happened, the Nets big four players played a combined one minute (KG briefly came in) as the Nets were getting beaten up on.
“When we went with that group, the reserves, I felt that that group could make shots but also get some stops and get it to where it’s under 10, and then go from there, but it never happened,” Kidd said.
All four of the starters said the right things for the most part as Pierce expressed trust in his head coach. KG probably said it best, “”Jason Kidd told me to sub in for Mason and then he subbed me out. Just following directions, dog. Following directions.”
Perhaps the Nets were just tired after a grueling seven-game series against the Raptors. It really looked like the Heat were in a different league, the NBA, while the Nets looked like a bunch of guys playing pickup basketball. Andrei Kirilenko mentioned postgame that the Toronto series might have had something to do with it, but Johnson denied it, “Physically, I felt pretty good. We just came off a tough series, but that didn’t have anything to do with it tonight. We were just slow tonight. Defensively we struggled.”
Johnson and D-Will led the Nets with 17 points each, although D-Will only had three assists. Marcus Thornton was the only other Net with at least 10 points, he had 11, but he was a liability on defense. Kevin Garnett was held to zero points in the playoffs for the first time in 129 career games. Mason Plumlee and Blatche were awful behind him.
The Nets committed just 11 turnovers, but only had 11 assists which gives a glimpse of how they were running things on offense. Combine that with a total lack of effort in the paint where they allowed 52 points and that says everything one needs to know about this game.
The Heat did a great job getting everyone involved. LeBron James led with 22 points on 10-for-15 from the floor, Ray Allen had 19 points thanks to four threes, Bosh had 15, Dwyane Wade had 14 and Mario Chalmers had 12.
The Nets are now down 1-0 in the series. This shouldn’t necessarily lead anyone to panic just yet. It was obvious going in that this would be a tough series and it’s hard to find anyone that predicted the Nets would win in four. It just goes to show that the Nets 4-0 regular season advantage is meaningless in the playoffs, though, and it puts a lot of importance on Game 2. Hopefully with the starters getting some rest in the second half of this game that they can come out stronger in the next one on Thursday night in Miami.