The Brooklyn Nets won all four meetings against the Miami Heat during the regular season, but the two-time defending champs become a different animal in the playoffs. Miami outscored Brooklyn in all four quarters and cruised to a 107-86 win in Tuesday's Game 1.
Deron Williams and Joe Johnson led Brooklyn with 17 points apiece, but the Nets looked punchless as the game got away from them in the second half. They committed 13 turnovers and totaled just 11 assists on 33 field goals, not to mention missing seven free throws on 17 attempts.
The Heat opened an 11-point lead in the second quarter, their largest advantage over the Nets during any game all season. Then Miami compiled a 15-2 run during the third quarter that busted things open.
Had it not been for the proficiency of the Nets starters from behind the arc (8-of-15 shooting), Brooklyn would have trailed by more than 20 for much of the second half.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra did not attach much importance to the Nets sweeping the season series, and the slate certainly seemed to have been cleaned before Game 1. According to The Associated Press' Tim Reynolds (via NBA.com), Spoelstra said about the significance of the four regular-season losses: "Depends on who you ask. We're looking at us and how we have to impact the games to give ourselves the best chance to win."
The Heat barely seemed to break a sweat in Game 1 as they completely overmatched Brooklyn over the final 24 minutes.
Player grades start at a C+ for a decent overall performance. That increases or decreases based on the quality of each player's contributions, with extra credit for huge stats or clutch performance. (We'll put role players on the grading curve.) Instead of gold stars and frowny faces, here are grades for every player.
Key Heat Grades
LeBron James, Power Forward
James scored the 4,000th postseason point of his career in the first half of Game 1, making him the youngest to reach the milestone.
Though James never went into full "Chosen One" takeover mode, he still led all scorers with 22 points and converted 10 shots on 15 attempts. LeBron didn't even need to flirt with a triple-double to get the W. He tallied only five boards and three assists.
The Nets used a slew of players to defend James, including Shaun Livingston, Alan Anderson and Paul Pierce, but the former two-time defending MVP did not need to be the focal point of the offense on this evening.
Dwyane Wade, Shooting Guard
Wade only played in two of Miami's four losses to the Nets this season, so don't blame him for getting swept in the season series. He seemed in fine form to start Round 2 and put down 14 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the floor. He also served up a game-high five assists and collected a pair of steals in 33 minutes.
Even though D-Wade generally slacked off during the season and sat out 28 games with justifications such as body soreness, he looks fresh as a daisy jogging through the postseason so far.
Chris Bosh, Center
Bosh's rebounding has not been strong on a night-to-night basis, but he snatched seven boards in the first half of Game 1. CB recorded a double-double and outclassed a mix of Kevin Garnett, Mason Plumlee and Andray Blatche in just over 30 minutes.
The Nets need to get at least one of their big men going to limit Bosh in the series.
Mario Chalmers, Point Guard
Mario Chalmers killed it softly with 10 points in the first half. The Nets focused on the Big Three, so Rio found some extra room to work. He only scored two more points over his final 13 minutes, and he finished the game with just two assists and two turnovers. However, his first-half scoring helped keep the Heat on top and keep Brooklyn deflated.
Shane Battier, Small Forward
Shane Battier always plays solid defense, but he had one of those pesky games where he slithered out to hit some open three-pointers as well. He scored eight points to go with a couple of assists.
Ray Allen ran into a wall called "Kevin Garnett" in the second quarter when no one called out the screen. If memory serves me correctly, those two used to play on the same team. Thanks, buddy.
Allen showed no ill effects and added very useful bench scoring, which Miami sometimes struggles to find. His 19 points made him the second-highest scorer in the game, though nine of those came during a largely uncompetitive fourth quarter.
Chris Andersen picked up a pair of first-half blocks in just nine minutes. He enjoyed that so much, he blocked two more shots in the second half. Unfortunately, he took an awkward fall in the fourth quarter and suffered a contusion to his left knee, according to the TNT broadcast.
Norris Cole drained two of his three attempts from three-point range, while Rashard Lewis bricked both of his.
Key Nets Grades
Deron Williams, Point Guard
Deron Williams closed the first half with a three-pointer from somewhere near Fort Lauderdale. That cut it to a one-possession game with Brooklyn only trailing 46-43. Then he ended the third quarter by opening the Bank of D-Will and going off glass from downtown. However, that only pulled Brooklyn to within 13 points of the lead following a lackluster third quarter.
With the game rapidly growing out of hand, Williams never even took the court in the fourth quarter. He ended with 17 points on just 10 shots, but he also distributed just three assists and committed three turnovers. As a team, Brooklyn managed only 11 assists, half as many as Miami.
Joe Johnson, Small Forward
Johnson had his shot working in the first half and notched 10 by the break, eight coming in the second quarter. He finished with 17 points on 11 shots but largely lived on the perimeter. Johnson failed to dictate the action and did not make a trip to the free-throw line.
Paul Pierce, Power Forward
Few could have predicted that a defensive play from Paul Pierce would win a first-round series, but his blocked shot on Kyle Lowry pushed Brooklyn to Round 2. That effort must have taken a lot out of him.
Pierce hit a couple of three-pointers on four attempts, but he made only one other field goal to end with eight points and six rebounds.
Like Williams, Pierce also sat for the entirety of the fourth. He must be saving his lockdown defense on LeBron for the home fans at the Barclays Center.
Shaun Livingston, Shooting Guard
Head coach Jason Kidd opted to start the long-armed Shaun Livingston at the 2. In retrospect, Kidd chose poorly. Livingston posted a game-low minus-23 rating in 33 minutes, though he did put up nine points, three assists and a steal.
Kevin Garnett, Center
Kevin Garnett barely played during the regular season. The Big Ticket averaged just 20.5 minutes in 54 games.
In Game 1, he added a savvy presence in the middle on defense for about 15 minutes, but he couldn't find anything on the offensive end and missed both shot attempts. The sum total of KG's stats came from four rebounds and a steal.
As the starting center, Garnett should be called upon to explain the 52-28 spanking the Nets allowed in paint points. TNT cameras showed him excitedly gesticulating during one second-half huddle following yet another defensive breakdown on the interior.
Through three quarters, no Brooklyn bench player had more than one field goal. That would have remained true if Kidd had actually put all his starters back on the floor in the fourth quarter.
Andray Blatche pulled in three offensive rebounds, three times as many as any other player, but he only scored four points with the Nets desperate for offense from somewhere.
Marcus Thornton scored 11 off the bench, but nine of those came from an irrelevant fourth quarter.
Alan Anderson missed five of his seven shots. Mason Plumlee had as many points (two) as turnovers and got two of his shots blocked. Andrei Kirilenko picked up three personal fouls in a hurry and saw under 13 minutes.
The Nets will look to redeem themselves in Game 2 after starting the series with a limp performance, but even after getting completely outplayed, they can still lose the next time out and not panic as long as they hold serve at home in the next two tilts.
Miami only lost nine home games during the year, but the Nets should come into Game 2 showing more fight. Seven games came down to the final second with the Toronto Raptors, and only Johnson and Williams displayed any quality of note in losing Game 1.
Also, if Andersen's knee injury forces him to miss any games, Brooklyn should look to make hay in the middle.
Game 2 comes Thursday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2. The series heads back to Brooklyn for Game 3 Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.