Title defenses are never easy, and the Miami Heat sure had a difficult time closing out their series against the Brooklyn Nets. A strong first half from Dwyane, overall another good one from LeBron James and a great finish from Ray Allen and Chris Bosh were needed for a 96-94 win and taking the series 4-1, earning a spot in the conference finals for a fourth consecutive time.
The Nets held an eight point lead with 2:58 left in the game, but all the experience in the world couldn’t stop them from giving up a 12-0 run that included three pointers from LeBron James and Ray Allen, giving them the lead for the first time since the first half. Allen was ice cold from beyond the arc all game long until the biggest moment, hitting one from the corner after some nice ball movement from the Heat, Mario Chalmers giving up on a good shot to give it to a more reliable finisher.
The Heat were a terrible 1-of-16 from 3-point land during the first half but improved significantly in the second half with 8-of-16. Chris Bosh finished with 16 points, including 4-of-6 from beyond the arc while LeBron James added a couple himself. James struggled early in the game while Dwyane Wade (20 first half points, 28 overall) managed to keep the Heat in the game. James scored 29, including 14 coming in the fourth quarter.
Joe Johnson was great all game long with 31 points, but LeBron James simply locked him down in the closing minutes and especially during that final run. Johnson had a chance with the few seconds remaining to get one more shot up, but James with some help from Ray Allen who rarely comes in to aid on double teams denied Johnson the shot as time expired. James ran off to jump on the scoring table, while the Nets and especially the duo from the Boston Celtics showed once again how not to behave when losing a game.
No team has ever lost four times to a regular season rival and then beaten them in the playoffs, but there’s such a huge difference, especially for a team like the Heat, between what happens from October to mid April than the games that take place afterwards. No coasting, no resting, no thinking about games later on. It’s always about the moment and the now, bringing out the best of the NBA champions, even if the closing game wasn’t exactly the cleanest of victories.
It’s time for some rest until we get an outcome from the Wizards – Pacers series. The Heat in the big three era don’t mess up when there’s a chance to clinch a series. They dominated the first two games, slipped up in the third, came roaring back in the fourth with a huge LeBron James performance and struggled in the fifth against a good team, but like champions always do found a way to make things work at the very end.
For us, it was just about getting stops. We knew offensively that we needed to execute, but we knew we weren’t going to win the game unless we got some stops. It’s always been like that for us. It’s never easy. It’s never easy for us. This wasn’t just the fourth time the Heat in the Big Three era made it to the conference finals, but also the 10th consecutive postseason series they’ve won.