Oh, how we miss you, first round.
Don’t get us wrong, the second round of the NBA playoffs has brought plenty of excitement to the table, but those buzzer-beaters and the litany of Game 7s seem quite a ways off. In fact, even with all the drama, we may just be on our way to the expected conference finals consisting of the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers.
Perhaps Monday can change all that. Here is a look at the broadcast information and complete schedule:
|Miami Heat at Brooklyn Nets||2-1 (Miami)||8 p.m.||TNT|
|San Antonio Spurs at Portland Trail Blazers||3-0 (San Antonio)||10:30 p.m.||TNT|
Just in case you are having trouble keeping track, an updated bracket can be found right here.
Monday’s Game to Watch: Miami Heat at Brooklyn Nets, Game 4
There’s not a single team in the NBA that would ever admit to being intimidated in a playoff series against the two-time defending champions, but, given the history between Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and the Miami Heat, it means a bit more coming from the Brooklyn Nets, via SportsCenter:
Paul Pierce says Nets wanted to make a statement in Game 3 vs Heat. pic.twitter.com/72P2kbalbi— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 11, 2014
Until Brooklyn’s Game 3 win in this series, the Heat had not even been challenged in the postseason. In fact, Saturday was the first time LeBron James and company faced a fourth-quarter deficit since the regular season.
Who will win Game 4
However, if the Nets win Monday, we will have an actual series on our hands. It would certainly put some pressure on Miami if this turned into a best-of-three series, even if it does have home-court advantage still. The Nets won a Game 7 on the road in the first round and certainly have the pieces to do so again.
Perhaps the main reason Brooklyn was able to win Game 3 was its red-hot three-point shooting. It was only the fifth time in NBA playoff history that a team took at least 25 three-pointers and made 60 percent or more of its attempts, via ESPN.com:
Ethan J. Skolnick of Turner Sports notes that the long-range shots weren’t exactly the easy variety either:
Amazing thing about last night's Nets barrage is only 4 of the 15 3's came from the corners. They did it the hard way.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) May 11, 2014
Pinning the victory solely on the hot shooting would be a mistake though, because Andray Blatche had his way down low with Chris Bosh and company. Blatche scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and controlled the paint on both ends of the floor.
The three-point shooting will come and go, but that type of effort on the glass is what the Nets need to shock the defending champs. Expect the appropriate urgency from Brooklyn, especially if Garnett’s comments are any indication, according to the Associated Press, via ESPN.com: "I think this is a must-win coming up Monday. If we want to give ourselves any type of room ... any type of chance, I think that we've definitely got to take care of home."
It may be cliche, but the fact that this veteran-laden team isn’t intimidated by James and the rest of the Heat truly helps. James came out on fire Saturday, and a lesser squad, especially facing a 2-0 deficit in the series, would have folded up and waved the white flag.
The home crowd will be on fire from the opening tip Monday, and the Nets will get out to a fast start because of it.
What’s more, the Heat will be hyper-aware of the outside shooting, which will open up the lane more for penetration and post play for the big men. Miami isn’t exactly bringing Wilt Chamberlain or Shaquille O’Neal to the table in the paint, so an open lane will mean easier opportunities for the Nets.
This is not to suggest that Brooklyn is going to win this series, but it will tie it up at two games apiece. The Heat will finally face some playoff pressure this year, which may ultimately help in later rounds.
Follow me on Twitter: