Nets wilt in Game 1 as Heat wave hits

5/7/2014

By Andy Vasquez

By Andy Vasquez

The Record (Hackensack, N.J.)

MIAMI (MCT) — The Brooklyn Nets swept the Heat during the regular season, and before facing them in the Eastern Conference semifinals, Brooklyn's best made it clear: They believe they can beat the Heat, or anyone, in these playoffs.

But by midway through the fourth quarter of Game 1, all the Nets' starters could do was sit and watch. The game was all but over, and their regular-season success against Miami seemed like a distant memory.

Miami beat Brooklyn, 107-86, on Tuesday night at American Airlines Arena behind 22 points from LeBron James.

The Heat lead the best-of-seven series, 1-0. Game 2 is Thursday night.

Deron Williams and Joe Johnson each had 17 points to lead the Nets — but neither player played a minute in the fourth quarter as the game was already in hand for the Heat.

Paul Pierce, who also didn't play in the fourth quarter, scored only eight points. And Kevin Garnett, who played just under 16 minutes — and only one in the fourth — was held scoreless for the first time in his NBA postseason career.

After a grueling seven-game series with the Raptors, the Nets looked exhausted. Meanwhile, the two-time defending champions appeared fresh.

The Heat had an eight-day layoff after sweeping the Bobcats in the first round. But Miami wasn't exactly relaxing as the Nets and Raptors battled for seven games.

"We had a good week of work," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "It's not like our guys — (none) of us went on vacation. We came with a mind-set to get ready for another battle. We expect this one to be much more competitive."

One of the reasons Spoelstra and the Heat expect more of a battle in this series are their old rivals, Pierce and Garnett.

Wade admitted Monday that after the Heat beat the Celtics in 2012, he thought Miami had "buried" the aging duo. But here they are — Garnett at 37 and Pierce at 36 — standing between the Heat and a shot at their third consecutive championship.

"They don't ever go away," Spoelstra. "Seriously. Look up the story lines the last time we played the two guys when they were in the green in the playoffs. It was the same story lines. If anybody had forgotten, that series went seven."

James' first title in 2012 nearly never happened, because the Celtics were leading the Heat, 3-2, in the Eastern Conference finals. But Miami stormed back, led by an all-time great Game 6 by James, to take the series and undo the efforts of Pierce and Garnett.

"Those two guys may be wearing black and silver," Spoelstra said of their trade to the Nets, "but there's green underneath it somewhere, so it's all the same to us."

Before the game, Pierce went out of his way to make sure everyone knew he wasn't afraid of James and the Heat — and that he liked the Nets' chances.

"That's a big part of my success, period," Pierce said. "I'm not intimidated by nobody anyway. ... I'm out here to play the game; I feel like goals are what's ahead of us. That's what my eyes are set on — the goal. I always feel like I've never been an underdog. I feel like every situation I've been in, every series I've been in, we're supposed to win."

But the Heat never looked like a rusty team after the layoff. They made seven of 10 shots to start the game, and pulled ahead by as many as 11.

In the third quarter, the Nets cut the lead to one, but Miami went on a 15-2 run midway through the quarter to take a 70-56 lead. The Nets trailed by as many as 18, but Williams banked in a three-pointer at the buzzer to make it 79-66 heading into the fourth quarter.

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