After getting swept in the season series by the Brooklyn Nets, the Miami Heat kicked off their second-round series by beating Brooklyn twice in South Beach. Thursday's Game 2 remained close until the fourth quarter, when Miami ran away with a 94-82 win and 2-0 series lead.
LeBron James led the way with 22 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals. Deron Williams was held scoreless for the Nets.
Perhaps the most interesting subplot of this entire series is the battle between James and Paul Pierce. ESPN Stats & Info set the scene:
LeBron James and Paul Pierce have gone head-to-head in a game 60 times. Pierce has won 31 meetings; LeBron has won 29— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 8, 2014
Tim Bontemps of the New York Post pointed out that Miami Heat fans were in usual form before the game:
Dwyane Wade imploring the fans to stand up and make some noise. They did, kind of.— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) May 8, 2014
Despite the playoff stakes, both teams came out ice cold. The Brooklyn Nets probably missed an opportunity to seize an early commanding lead, as illustrated by team and ESPN feeds, Dan Levy of Bleacher Report and Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press.
Wade scores with 8:29 left in the first quarter to open Miami scoring. Longest Heat had gone scoreless at home to open a game in Big 3 era.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) May 8, 2014
The Nets have 14 points, 6 turnovers, and they are winning.— Dan Levy (@DanLevyThinks) May 8, 2014
The score at the end of the first quarter was 21-15 in favor of the Nets, but things got a bit testy between two of the superstars. Bontemps, Ethan J. Skolnick of Turner Sports and Rod Boone of Newsday filled fans in on the developments after an alley oop:
LeBron and Pierce are getting into it after that alley-oop.— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) May 8, 2014
LeBron stares down Pierce, Pierce shoves LeBron in the back at halfcourt. The series has started.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) May 8, 2014
LeBron was talking trash to Paul Pierce after that alley-oop. Pierce didn't like what he said and gave him a brief shove.— Rod Boone (@rodboone) May 8, 2014
The second quarter got off to something of a slow start, but Mirza Teletovic got hot from behind the three-point line and gave the Nets some momentum. Reynolds and the NBA on ESPN saw it all unfold:
No one has more than 5 3's off the bench against Miami all season. Teletovic started 4-4, is now 4-6, midway through 2nd quarter.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) May 8, 2014
Mirza Teletovic knocked down 4 straight 3s before missing a heat check, and Brooklyn leads Miami by 6 with 6:10 left in the 2nd. #BKNvsMIA— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) May 8, 2014
James directed some of his ire at the Nets' momentum toward the officials, which did not impress Boone.
LeBron sure whines to the officials a lot. It's not a good look for him at all.— Rod Boone (@rodboone) May 9, 2014
Despite the complaining, James got hot late in the second quarter and scored on consecutive possessions. He helped Miami close the gap to 46-45 by the half, although he wasn't the leading scorer, as Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel noted:
Nets 46, Heat 45 at the half. LeBron with 11 for Heat, Teletovic with 15 for Nets on five 3-pointers.— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) May 9, 2014
ESPN broke things down for fans at halftime:
The third quarter started with the rarest of sightings—a Kevin Garnett basket:
Kevin Garnett scores!— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) May 9, 2014
Kevin Garnett's first basket of the second round comes with 10:58 left in the third quarter of Game 2— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) May 9, 2014
Nets fans got a glimpse of something they'd like to see more of in the future. Unfortunately, Brooklyn wasn't taking advantage of the rare opportunities it had on the charity stripe:
#Nets first free throws of the game coming up right here as Joe steps to line with 8:08 in third Q.— Rod Boone (@rodboone) May 9, 2014
Nets continue to miss free throws. Has been an issue all throughout the playoffs.— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) May 9, 2014
Miami was looking rather lethargic in the middle of the third quarter, but James fired the fans up when he jumped into the crowd to get a loose ball:
Heat offense a shell of what it was in Game 1. Nets defense better, but Heat too often also looking for easiest way out.— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) May 9, 2014
LeBron was heading up to the concessions. Guessing there's still a line from halftime.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) May 9, 2014
The Heat certainly had some momentum on their side, but Joe Johnson and Teletovic helped keep Brooklyn in the game:
James closed the third quarter with a basket on the offensive side and a critical role in the subsequent defensive stop. Miami held a narrow 69-67 lead heading to the final 12 minutes with a critical Game 2 in the balance.
The Heat picked up right where they left off and seized momentum in the early fourth quarter. They built a six-point lead and completely stifled anything the Nets were doing on offense. It was almost as if the on switch had been activated.
Michael Wallance of ESPN pointed out that Dwyane Wade was a big part of it:
Wade had six points through three quarters. He's already scored another six in first 3 minutes of fourth.— Michael Wallace (@WallaceNBA_ESPN) May 9, 2014
Matt Norlander of CBS Sports made an interesting note as the Heat took a lead on this NFL draft night:
On ESPN, the Browns are doing … that. On ESPN2, LeBron is playing toward a three-peat. Apologies, Cleveland.— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) May 9, 2014
Brooklyn battled back, but Garnett missed an easy putback right in front of the rim, and it turned into a Ray Allen three-pointer. It is those type of five-point swings that turn playoff games, and Garnett probably knew it from his reaction:
Kevin Garnett was really ticked at himself for missing that bunny. Ray Allen comes down and buries a 3 on next possession. Might be ballgame— Rod Boone (@rodboone) May 9, 2014
Ultimately, the game was virtually over after the Heat grabbed a ridiculous three offensive rebounds on one possession. James eventually scored with just less than two minutes remaining to give the Heat an 89-79 lead, and they grabbed the 2-0 series lead when all was said and done:
Three straight offensive rebounds for Miami. Killer.— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) May 9, 2014
This Heat power play is sick.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) May 9, 2014
The best news for the Heat may just be that Chris Bosh will get some sleep Thursday night. At least he will if his comments after Game 1 were any indication, according to the Associated Press, via ESPN.com:
"It's fun when you win the game and you can at least for a night do whatever it is you do, have some dinner, chill at home and exhale a little bit. When you lose, you can't sleep, your stomach hurts and it's not a very good situation."
The Brooklyn Nets will try for their first victory in Game 3 Saturday back home.
Who wins Game 3?
While being in front of the friendly crowd will help, the fact that the Heat eviscerated Brooklyn in the fourth quarter will carry over to the next game. It was almost as if Miami could crank it up to a different intensity level when it needed to, and that will not disappear just because the series shifts to Brooklyn.
The Nets simply don't have the athletes or overall talent level to compete with the defending champions.
Perhaps only the teams in the Western Conference do this year.