The regular season is deceiving, because it made us think that the Brooklyn Nets have some inherit advantage of the Miami Heat. The first game of their conference semifinal series told a very different story, with the defending NBA champions having no trouble taking a 1-0 lead after a 107-86 win, led by some astounding defense and a dominant performance from LeBron James.
The Heat attacked the paint and didn’t allow the Nets time to settle defensively or on offense. They jumped on each pick & roll and looked like the younger, stronger, fitter, faster and better team from the tip off to the sound of the final buzzer, scoring 52 points in the paint while shooting a very impressive 56.8% from the field, winning all four quarters after losing in all four games between them and the Nets during the regular season.
James finished with 22 points and along with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade put on a clinic defensively. The Nets as a team shot 47.1% from the field, but Nets defended by the big three while taking their shots were only 33% from the field. The Nets weren’t able to generate any transition points (only 7 on the fast break), and found it very difficult to actually move the ball and find open spots, finishing with only 11 assists.
James became the youngest player in NBA history to hit the 4000 playoff points mark, and the only one to do it before his 30th birthday. He is also one of only three players to reach 4000 points, 900 rebounds and 900 assists in the postseason, joining Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Again, he stands out here thanks to the time it took him: He has done it in nine postseason appearances, while Jordan needed 12 and Bryant needed 13.
This was one of those games in which the Nets looked old. They’ve done badly after wins in the playoffs, still not being able to win two games in a row. Even Shuan Livingston, the youngest in the starting lineup and someone who game them a big edge against the Heat with his defense in the regular season looked overpowerd and overwhelmed during most of the physical confrontations in the game.
Paul Pierce was bad with 8 points on 3-of-8 from the field, getting his one moment of feeling good about his game when he rammed Mario Chalmers with his shoulders to set a screen and somehow getting away with it, but the Nets needed more from him. They definitely needed more from Kevin Garnett, who didn’t score a single point for the first time in his playoff career, spending 16 forgettable minutes on the court.
Ray Allen had no problem outshining his former Celtics teammates with 19 points off the bench, most of them coming in the second half when the Heat pulled away for good. He was 4-of-7 from beyond the arc as the Heat were able to give Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade a bit more rest than they initially planned to, as they both combined to score 29 points. This series is far from over, but the Miami Heat have erased any doubts anyone might have had about their ability to dominate against a team that ruled their regular season clashes.