Are the Nets elite? 3 wins against Heat make the case

By Jason Schott - @JESchott19

The Nets went down to Miami on Wednesday night, and got their third win of the season against the Heat, a 96-95 triumph that went down to the wire.

The Nets are a season-best three games over .500, at 33-30, now 23-9 since the start of the year and looking like the team they expected to be.

All season, the conventional wisdom has been that it is the Indiana Pacers and the Heat as the only elite teams in the Eastern Conference. The Nets, Chicago Bulls, and the Atlantic Division-leading Toronto Raptors are making a case that maybe this isn't a two-team conference after all.

As with the two games the Nets and Heat played in Brooklyn, this was a classic. Miami got out to a nice lead early, but the Nets came back to tie it at 22 by the end of the first and they played an even second quarter as well, so it was tied at 42 at the half.

The Nets had one of their best runs of the game to start the third quarter, with Paul Pierce scoring ten points in the first four minutes to give the Nets a 55-49 lead. Miami got back into it and took the lead a couple of times, but a Pierce three gave the Nets a 73-69 lead with 1:54 left, and they took a 73-71 lead into the fourth quarter.

The Nets held on to their lead in the early part of the fourth thanks to two clutch three-pointers from Mirza Teletovic, the second giving them an 87-81 lead with 6:38 left. The Nets did not score for nearly three minutes, but their stellar defense did not relinquish the lead, and a Pierce three with 3:44 left gave them a 90-86 lead.

Miami tied the game at 92 on a Dwyane Wade free throw with 2:02 left, which followed a Chris Bosh three. As was the case all night, Pierce responded with a jumper off a drive down the lane to make it 94-92 Brooklyn.

Deron Williams hit a jumper with 35.8 seconds left to give the Nets a comfortable 96-92 lead. The Heat took little time in responding, and Chris Bosh hit a jumper with 30.6 seconds left, and he was fouled by Pierce to make it a three-point play that cut the Nets' lead to 96-95. D-Will missed a jumper on the Nets' ensuing possession with 8.5 seconds left, and Miami got a final shot with 3.5 seconds left. The Nets deflected the inbounds pass and Shaun Livingston scooped it up as time expired to seal the huge win.

Pierce had an amazing night, as he led Brooklyn with 29 points on 9-for-12 from the field and an impressive 5-for-7 from behind the arc. Shaun Livingston had a nice game, with 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists.

One hallmark of Nets' victories now is strong play off the bench, and this win was no exception, as Mirza Teletovic scored 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting and 3-5 from behind the arc. Andray Blatche (called Blotch all night on ESPN by Hubie Brown) had 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. Whether it's Teletovic, Marcus Thornton, or Alan Anderson, the Nets can count on double digits from one of them in addition to Blatche.

For Miami, Chris Bosh led the way with 24 points, Dwyane Wade had 22, LeBron James had just 19, and Mario Chalmers had 14. The Nets shut down Ray Allen, as he did not make a basket, shooting 0-for-3 from the field and had just one point from a free throw. Shane Battier also was kept in check, as he made just one 3-pointer to account for his only points.