In a virtual must-win Game 3 at home the big-spending Brooklyn Nets threw out a starting lineup making $68.6 million.
But it was two guys making a combined $4.6 million and coming off the bench that were the spark.
Andray Blatche was attacking inside and had 15 points, shooting 5-of-7 inside 8 feet and keying the Nets in the first half. Mirza Teletovic had nine points in the third quarter (12 for the game) knocking down threes, all the while doing a good job defending LeBron James.
Combine that with the Nets having a hot shooting night from three, hitting 15-of-25 from beyond the arc, and the Nets got the win they needed.
Brooklyn pulled away in the third quarter and cruised to a 104-90 win, handing Miami its first loss of these playoffs. Miami still leads the series 2-1 with Game 4 coming Monday night.
The tale of this game can completely be told from beyond the arc.
Brooklyn not only hit 15-of-25, they were 11-of-18 from above the break. Johnson led the way hitting 5-of-7 on his way to 19 points n the night.
The Heat started out 2-of-2 from three then proceeded to hit 1-of-16 through the heart of the game. Miami hit a few more late to make the numbers look a little better, but in the third quarter the Nets did a much better job of getting back in transition to take away easy buckets, they clogged the paint to take away driving lanes and the Heat did not make them pay with the three ball.
The Nets played with a new energy (call it desperation?) from the opening tip. Early on Deron Williams was pushing the tempo, finding Johnson for a couple threes in transition. Nets attacking more in transition 15-10 early.
Yet they couldn’t pull away early because Miami opened hitting 8-of-11 shots, and because of LeBron James — he had 16 of his 28 points in the first quarter. The Heat put up 30 in the first frame and looked like they could just outscore the Nets. This was a two-point game at the half, the Nets up 51-49 and, like the first two games, it felt like the Heat were just waiting to kick it into another gear.
But from there the Heat just could not knock down shots, even missing a lot of open looks — they had just 14 points on 17 open jumpers, according to Synergy Sports. Teletovic did a good job on LeBron taking away easy driving lanes, turning him into a jump shooter in the second half. LeBron still had 28 points and was the one Heat player looking like he wanted to end the series Saturday night. Dwyane Wade had 20 points but needed 18 shots, Chris Bosh had a dozen points on 11 shots.
Meanwhile the Nets went on a 9-0 third-quarter run to pull away because they had balance. D-Will dished out 10 assists, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett combined for 24, Shaun Livingston was attacking the rim and finished with 12 points.
This felt like a playoff game — it got testy at points. Pierce got called for a flagrant foul for grabbing LeBron James by the shoulders (he made the shot anyway). Ray Allen and Alan Anderson got double-technicals after they got in a little pushing match after being tied it. The series got physical.
It was an impressive outing from the Nets all around, but there remains one question:
Can they repeat that performance?
They shot 52.8 percent as a team and you can expect Miami to bounce back with a new level of energy Monday night. Brooklyn is going to have to stay hot in this series, they are going to need guys coming off the bench with big nights, they are going to need it all.
And they are going to need it Monday night, because they are in trouble if they head back to Miami down 3-1.