Game 1: The final result, a five-game series loss, was in no way indicative of the challenge the Brooklyn Nets gave LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Coming into the series, the conversation centered on the four-game regular season sweep the Heat suffered at the hands of the Nets. After the first half of Game 1, it looked like the Nets were going to continue that run. Leading 46-43 heading into the locker room, the road team seemed to be dictating tempo despite the Heat being well-rested after their sweep of the Charlotte (soon to be Hornets) Bobcats. Maybe it just took them the first half to wake up after the long layoff, but LeBron’s 22pts and Ray Allen’s 19pts paced the Heat as they outscored the Nets 61-43 in the second half to secure the Game 1 victory.
Game 2 started as Game 1 did, with the Nets dictating tempo during long stretches, and showing an ability to run (and score) with the two-time defending champions. Joe Johnson stood out all series long, and was singled-out as the team’s “best player” by first-year Head Coach Jason Kidd during a postgame presser. The Nets may’ve been in enemy territory, but they asserted themselves in the first quarter with scoring from Shaun Livingston and Mirza Teletovic. The surprise scoring allowed Brooklyn fans to dream of a split, as the team held a 46-45 halftime lead. Livingston ended up with 15pts, Teletovic scored 20pts, but the Nets couldn’t overcome 0pts from PG Deron Williams and a 25-15 scoring advantage by the Heat in the 4th quarter as they fell 94-82. As the teams made their way to Brooklyn for Game 3, the Miami Heat were up 2-0 in the series… with the Nets lamenting their chances in both.
Game 3: After two games in South Beach, it was time to bring the playoffs to the “mecca of basketball”! The Barclay’s Center crowd was enthusiastic; the building filled with passionate fans rabid for a win, or find their team down 0-3 to the defending champs. Six players in double-figures, including Andray Blatche’s double-double (15pts & 10rebs), were enough to overcome 28pts from LeBron James and 20pts from Dwyane Wade. Joe Johnson played like the team’s best player, hitting 5/7 three-pointers while Deron Williams added 11assts. The vibe in the building was electric, but little did they know they’d be applauding the team’s last victory of the season.
Game 4: With the series at 2-1 and the Brooklyn Nets feeling confident (having won 5 of the last 7 contests), the Miami Heat looked vulnerable for the first time this postseason. How would the Heat bounce back from their first loss of the playoffs? Any questions were answered by LeBron James netting 49pts on 16/24 shooting! He made 14/19FTs (missing a late attempt that would’ve pushed his total to 50pts) and chipped in 6rebs and 6assts. Deron Williams, Joe Johnson & Paul Pierce combined for 24 missed shots that ended any chance of a win in Game 4 and a chance to even things up. Down 3-1 in the series, the Nets would head back to Miami attempting to prolong the series… and their season.
Game 5: Somehow Johnson’s 34pts weren’t enough, as the Heat held Brooklyn to 19pts in the 4th quarter and won 96-94. Kevin Garnett scored 2pts in a game where one more bucket could’ve made the difference. Paul Pierce chipped in 18pts, but it was clear more from Deron Williams was needed (He had a -9 plus/minus, with only four assists and zero FTs attempted in 37mins). After the season, Williams had surgery on those bothersome ankles, but falling short of their championship goal, the Nets are forced to look inward. Kevin Garnett has a player option in his contract for next season, which he is expected to exercise. The Nets don’t have the cap room to be players in free agency, but will receive a boost to their lineup as Brook Lopez continues to recover from the injury that sidelined him for a majority of the season.
-Joseph Haas, HaasStyleInterpretations.com
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