For a half, the Brooklyn Nets hung with the Miami Heat.
Then in the second half the Heat cranked up the defensive pressure, LeBron James reminded everyone he is the best basketball player currently on planet Earth, and the Heat rolled to a 105-85 win.
Before the game, Nets forward Reggie Evans said the Heat’s championship should have an asterik — “It doesn’t prove nothing. That was a lockout season.” LeBron’s response? How about the 24 points. “I let my game do the talking,” James said.
Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov — the man who set the bar at a championship within five years for the Nets — was at the game and saw exactly where the championship bar is.
Last time Prokhorov came to a game and saw his team lose this bad he fired the coach. That’s not going to happen this time, but the Nets learned what the Heat can do.
Miami opened the game very active on defense, and that always fuels their offense. They jumped out to a quick 24-13 lead and the Heat kind of hung out in the 8-12 point lead range for most of the first half as they hit more threes and grabbed offensive rebounds, controlling the glass.
But just before the half the Nets made a 20-8 run behind Brook Lopez and tied the game at 49-49 at the break. Lopez, earlier in the day named to his first All-Star game and he played up to that — 21 points and seven rebounds.
In the third quarter, the Heat cranked it up and the Nets had no answer.
Brooklyn had a couple brief two-point leads in the third quarter before the Heat went on a 24-5 run, with the Heat defense pressuring Nets ball handlers and changing the complexion of the game. The Nets shot 5-of-12 with 8 turnovers in the third — and turnovers fuel the Heat’s running game and easy buckets in transition. The Nets couldn’t stop the Heat pick-and-roll, their help rotations on to the roll man were nonexistent, plus the ball handler was LeBron or Dwyane Wade.
The result was Miami hit 14-of-22 shots in the quarter and outscored Brooklyn 36-14. Ballgame.
LeBron finished with 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting, with 9 rebounds and 7 assists, every one of which led the Heat. Wade chipped in 21 for Miami and Chris Bosh had 16.
During their recent run some people talked about the Nets as potential contenders. I’m not sure when the Heat are focused that anyone in the East fares any better against them than the Nets, and we saw how that went.