The Brooklyn Nets still have more to prove before they become legitimate title contenders, but by beating the Miami Heat, handing the NBA champions their second straight loss, they prove they’re on the right path to get there, mostly having Paul Pierce to thank for his offense and excellent defense for most of the game on LeBron James, leading to the 101-100 win.
This isn’t something Pierce can do for an entire series, as the 2012 Eastern finals proved, but once in a while, he can still give James quite a physical challenge to handle. Pierce co-led the Nets scoring 19 points, but his biggest achievement was forcing James to only 2-of-8 from the field when guarding him. LeBron was 9-of-11 from the field when others Nets players were guarding him, finishing the game with the typical 26-7-6 stat line that just wasn’t enough.
The Nets did an extremely good job in defending the pick and roll the Heat love to run so much, limiting the ball handler to only 5-of-14 from the field, which is more than 10% worse than the Heat’s completion percentage last season on such plays.
The Heat couldn’t get in the paint, getting some strong defense from Andray Blatche, Kevin Garnett and even Brook Lopez, forcing the Heat to take very tough shots, hitting only 5-of-18 on non-paint two point field goal attempts. The famous ball movement simply wasn’t there early on for Miami, even though they did finish hitting 50% of their three point shots, once again thwarted by slow starts to the first quarter (haven’t scored more than 18 points in it this season) and the third quarter as well.
The return of Dwyane Wade didn’t provide the expected boost. He did score 21 points, but Miami just didn’t get enough from their bench: Ray Allen did score 12 points, but that was about it, as Shane Battier didn’t score a single point and Chris Andersen finished with only 4, unable to give the Heat an energy lift he usually manages when thrown into the game.
Deron Williams struggled with only 8 points, but the Nets have more players than before to carry the ball. Paul Pierce for one,adding 5 rebounds and 6 assists, but also a quiet and efficient performance from Joe Johnson, scoring 19 points as well, shooting 75% from the field and turning the ball over only once. The Nets got 36 points from their bench, including 6 from Jason Terry, who as usual came up with a big shot to make the Heat’s comeback attempt come up just short.
As we’ve learned from the Miami Heat these last few years, consecutive losses don’t mean anything. However, the win does position the Nets as one of the team that should be considered as challengers in the East, although we still have to see how this rather old lineup holds up during the season.
It was good that we got a taste of this type of atmosphere this early in the season to try to see where we’re at. Miami, whenever they come into town, they’re a measuring stick for everybody, so it was good for us to come out and get the win.