There are a couple questions about whether the Brooklyn Nets can replicate what got them a Game 3 win over Miami. First off, can they hit 15-of-25 from three again?
Second, can they keep LeBron James and the Heat out of the paint again?
In Game 1 of this series the Heat had 29 shots at the rim (in the restricted area), in Game 3 just 13. After a hot first quarter in Game 3 LeBron got just one shot at the rim the rest of the game. (For more detail on this, check out John Schuhmann’s work at NBA.com.)
Paul Pierce thinks he is just the guy to do it — he wants the LeBron assignment in Game 4, he told ESPN. He’s had it more in recent games and done a solid job at points.
“I went to J-Kidd [for] Game 2 and said I want that assignment. … I think I’ve guarded him more than anybody in this gym. I know his tendencies a little bit more and I just try to step up in that role and try to lead that way….
“You know you’ve got to have that type of mental [approach] when you’re going against a juggernaut,” Pierce explained about establishing a no-fear mental edge following Nets’ practice. “When you go against the best … a lot of series are won on fear factor, or the non-belief. When you have that non-belief, then you have no chance. What I try to do in this locker room and with my teammates is just try give them belief — that we can beat this team. They’re not unbeatable. You’ve got to have that mental [approach] if you’re trying to get over that mountain that you’re trying to climb.”
Pierce is right, even if he said it in an overly dramatic way — you can’t play in awe of the other team. The Nets do not play with fear.
That’s different from keeping a motivated LeBron and Dwyane Wade from getting to the rim. And in Game 4, after a loss, you can expect them to show up motivated. In the first quarter against an attacking LeBron in Game 3 Pierce was left to make a flagrant foul (and even then LeBron scored).
Watch early and see if Miami is getting to the basket or settling for jump shots. If they are making plays at the rim — and LeBron is still the best finisher at the rim in the game — it’s going to be a long night for Brooklyn.