Regular-season wins count for nothing in the postseason.
While the Brooklyn Nets swept the Miami Heat in the 2013-14 regular season, that didn't help them on Tuesday night as they dropped Game 1, 107-86, at AmericanAirlines Arena.
As is usually the case, LeBron James led the way. What he lacked in volume, he more than made up for with efficiency, scoring 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting.
He attempted two foul shots all game, which illustrates how easy of a night he had—particularly in the second half when he was matched up with Shaun Livingston:
LeBron playing bully ball right now. My goodness.— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) May 7, 2014
Shaun Livingston literally needs like 50 more lbs to handle LeBron in the post.— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) May 7, 2014
More impressive than the performance was the fact that James notched his 4,000th career postseason point. He's the youngest player to reach the milestone and ranks eighth in playoff history, per SportsCenter:
HISTORY! LeBron James just became the youngest player in NBA history with 4,000 career playoff points, 8th all-time.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 6, 2014
While the Heat got solid production from their biggest stars, the same couldn't be said of the Nets.
Kevin Garnett channeled his inner-Roy Hibbert tonight with 0 Pts in 16 minutes.— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) May 7, 2014
It should be pointed out, though, that Brookyn head coach Jason Kidd sat his starters during the fourth quarter. By then, the team had waved the white flag.
Some may have wondered if rust might be a problem for the Heat in Game 1. They hadn't played since April 28, when they bounced the Charlotte Bobcats out of the playoffs in Game 4 of the opening round.
In addition to that, they didn't even know whom they were playing in the second round until Sunday. That can be a tough combination to overcome initially for even the best teams.
Back on Saturday, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra spoke about the difficulty of practicing when you have no idea whom to game-plan for, per Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel:
You can't start planning for one team and their differences over the other team. Then you might be wasting your time. It's served us well in the past to drill our fundamentals, and that's what we did [Friday], training-camp style with our defense. All of those habits. That never hurts to do that and to do it fully competitive and full contact.
Indeed, it looked like Miami needed a couple of quarters to find its footing. At halftime, it held a 46-43 lead over the Nets.
The Heat were getting some easy looks at the rim, but for the most part, they appeared a bit sluggish. They certainly looked like the team that hadn't played a meaningful game in a week matched up against a team that was fresh off a seven-game series just days earlier.
In the second half, Miami flipped a switch, again resembling one of the NBA's best. The Heat outscored the Nets, 33-23, in the third to open up a 79-66 lead.
The most impressive part of the Heat's performance in the third was how efficiently they were scoring, per NBA.com's John Schuhmann:
Before Bosh missed that last 3 (Heat can get lazy offensively sometimes), MIA had scored on 11 of their 14 3rd Q possessions (24 points).— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) May 7, 2014
MIA scored 33 points on only 20 possessions in the 3rd. Wasn't hard to see it coming given how easily they were getting layups in the 1st H.— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) May 7, 2014
Kidd made a somewhat curious decision in the fourth to rest many of his starters. Thirteen points weren't an insurmountable deficit, but Kidd clearly felt otherwise. He threw out a lineup of Livingston, Alan Anderson, Mirza Teletovic, Mason Plumlee and Marcus Thornton.
SB Nation's Mike Prada questioned Kidd's tactics:
Kidd can’t roll out this lineup in a second-round playoff game.— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) May 7, 2014
Bleacher Report's Howard Beck spoke for sportswriters everywhere in expressing gratitude toward the head coach:
Obviously, Kidd's strategy was to pull his starters early and concede so that the beat writers could get their game stories done.— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) May 7, 2014
Kidd obviously felt that discretion was the better part of valor. Resting players like Garnett, Johnson, Pierce and Williams may pay off down the line.
Game 2 is scheduled for Thursday night at 7 p.m ET.
How Brooklyn responds could set the tone for the rest of the series. It can't get much worse than it was on Tuesday, though. The Nets let the game slip through their grasp in the third quarter, and then Kidd packed it in in the fourth. While the Nets should be much better in Game 2, they may not be afforded the luxury of a lackluster first half from the Heat.
While no series can be won or lost after two games, you do get a sense that if Miami takes a 2-0 lead, that could be it for Brooklyn. Taking four of the next five against the Heat is more like wishful thinking.