At the end of the second quarter, Deron Williams beat the buzzer with a three-pointer to pull the Brooklyn Nets within three points. By the time the third quarter ended, that deficit was up to 13 and the Miami Heat did not look back. Miami outscored the Nets in every quarter of the game in a dominant 107-86 victory. Thursday night, Brooklyn will look to even the series in the second game in Miami.
Brooklyn tried everything they could to get their offense going, playing 11 different players double-digit minutes. Unfortunately for the Nets, their best offense came from all of their guards, who often got stuck defending LeBron James because because they used three guard lineups at times. LeBron abused the Nets’ defense, shooting 10/15 from the field.
Most of James’ shots came in the paint, from posting up or driving by Alan Anderson and Shaun Livingston, as well as on dive plays and off of the pick and roll. Livingston’s length gave James no trouble, as he simply played out of the post, getting shots in close and out-muscling Livingston for rebounds. Even when the smaller defenders backed away, basically giving wide-open attempts to James, who is a strong shooter, he played aggressively and took it inside.
James’ only jumpers came when guarded by Kevin Garnett and Mirza Teletovic, who had to leave space to respect the drive. To give an idea of how strong and aggressive LeBron James is playing, he has taken 33 shots from within eight feet of the basket during the playoffs. He has taken 52 from everywhere else on the court. His game is at its best right now.
Miami really has little to worry about going into game two, though they may want to work on a way to slow down the shooting of Williams and Joe Johnson. The pair went a combined 14/21 from the field, 6/11 from three, but combined for only 34 points. Brooklyn may very well need 30 or more points from each of those players to have a chance, unless they can get more players involved on the offensive end.
The Nets cost themselves a lot of momentum by blowing easy shot attempts and lay-ups. They would be well off trying to get the ball out in transition, but Miami does not turn the ball over frequently. If Brooklyn hopes to steal a game on the road, their best bet is to continue to run their offense through their guards, which worked well, but they need to make sure they convert every single opportunity they are given. The rest of their work needs to be done on the defensive end.
The next man up in terms of trying to slow down LeBron James might be Andrei Kirilenko. Livingston’s length may have posed a problem if James had not been able to simply bowl through him. That will be a little harder to do with Kirilenko. The Nets also need to double team sooner. They often sent doubles at James way too late, after he was deep in the paint where he can simply use his strength to get shots up.
Alternatively, Jason Kidd may send his squad out into a zone more frequently. The problem with that is the shooting ability possessed by the Heat. Aside from James, the Heat have a number of strong three-point shooters, including all-time three-point leader Ray Allen, as well as Mario Chalmers and Chris Bosh. Kidd may not have a choice but to risk more open jumpers at the expense of keeping James and Wade away from the hoop.
The Heat have to be favored in this game at home, but if the Nets can bring defense for four quarters, and make the shots they are supposed to, they have a chance. Otherwise, Miami is going to roll once again. The Nets clash with Miami on Thursday at 7:00 EST.
Commentary by Brian Moore