Nets Must ‘Protect Paint’ in Game 2
Miami cruises past Brooklyn to take early series lead
Normally, teams form a lay-up line before the game.
But LeBron James and the Heat just kept cruising into the paint and to the basket throughout their easier-than-expected 107-86 rout of the Brooklyn Nets Tuesday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at Miami’s American Airlines Arena.
Brooklyn’s “Excuse me” defensive effort in the much-anticipated series opener certainly provided an early wake-up call to our borough’s championship-hopeful unit.
It also opened the door for some excuses.
Perhaps the Nets were drained from their recently completed seven-game thriller of an opening round series with the Toronto Raptors.
Maybe Brooklyn was due for a loss against Miami after taking all four regular-season meetings.
Or maybe the Heat are simply this much better than the Nets.
”This is the defending champs,” Brooklyn head coach Jason Kidd reminded everyone during his post-game press conference. ”It’s always going to be at a high level and we’ve got to find a way to match it.”
Match it, or go home, should be the Nets’ new mantra entering Thursday night’s Game 2, also in Miami.
In the non-competitive series opener, the Heat scored a whopping 52 points in the paint as James poured in 22 on 10-of-15 shooting.
Veteran sharp-shooter Ray Allen decimated the Nets’ porous defense from the perimeter as well, adding 19 points and draining 4-of-7 3-pointers as the two-time defending NBA champions remained unbeaten in these playoffs.
“It came down to defense tonight,” confessed Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams, who matched Joe Johnson’s 17 points to lead the Nets. ”Our defensive game plan was not executed at all.”
Despite its woes along the interior, Brooklyn remained close until halftime before the Heat pulled away for good in the third quarter, improving to 9-1 all-time against the Nets in the postseason.
With plenty of rest following their four-game sweep of Charlotte in the opening round, the Heat attacked the Nets’ basket early and often as Dwyane Wade (14 points), Chris Bosh (15 points, 11 rebounds) and Mario Chalmers (12 points) took turns filling Brooklyn’s unprotected lanes.
“They got the ball in the paint and had five guys in double figures, and that’s probably something a little different from the regular season,” Kidd readily admitted.
“They were the ones who attacked for 48 minutes, and we didn’t,” he added, perhaps hoping to motivate his club for a more complete effort in Game 2 before the series shifts back to Brooklyn for Game 3 (Saturday) and 4 (Monday).
Williams, who knocked down buzzer-beating 3s at halftime and at the end of the third quarter, pointed out that Brooklyn shot well enough (47 percent overall and 42 percent from beyond the arc) to win Game 1.
But Miami’s inside game dictated both the pace of the contest and the ultimate result, leaving the Nets to figure out if their regular-season mastery of the Heat was nothing more than a charade.
“They’ve been waiting on us,” said Nets forward Kevin Garnett, who went scoreless in a playoff game for the first time in his 19-year NBA career while long-time teammate Paul Pierce managed only eight points on 3-of-8 shooting.
“They have been resting,” Garnett added. “They have been hearing that we beat them this and all that. We need to be better, and we will be.”
They’d better be if they hope to prolong this series and return to Brooklyn on Saturday with at least some chance of applying significant pressure to Miami, which at 5-0 is threatening to go on an historic unbeaten playoff run through the Eastern Conference.
“I think the most positive thing was the rhythm that we were in,” James said of Miami’s seamless offensive efficiency. “It seemed like we didn’t take much time at all.”
Neither will this series if Brooklyn doesn’t find a way to protect the paint and limit Miami’s easy trips toward the basket to the pre-game portion of the evening.
Nothing But Net: Brooklyn also had a rough night at the free-throw line in Game 1, making only 10-of-17 attempts while Miami hit on 14-of-16 from the stripe. G Shaun Livingston was the only Nets’ starter to make a free throw in the opener. … Kidd rested most of his starting five during the fourth quarter as Miami pulled away, allowing G Marcus Thornton to put up 11 points off the bench. … Those hoping to attend Saturday’s Game 3 or Monday’s Game 4 at the Barclays Center will receive the added treat of a free T-shirt giveaway. The Nets actually asked fans to design the shirts in a contest that would be worn by the sell-out crowd in Brooklyn’s two upcoming home games. Raya Lim of Passaic, NJ designed the Brooklyn “B” tee, which will be given out at Game 3 on Saturday. The Skyline tee was created by Gregory Kissler of Manhattan for Game 4. “Thank you to everyone who participated in yesterday’s contest and congratulations to Raya and Gregory for creating the winning designs,” said Brett Yormark, CEO of the Nets and Barclays Center. “We wanted to give our fans the opportunity to have a special role in the playoff experience in Brooklyn. In addition to donning the black and white tees, we are asking everyone to bring their passion and Brooklyn chant to Games 3 and 4.”
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