By Jason Schott - @JESchott19
The Miami Heat dominated Game 1 on their way to a 107-86 win on Tuesday night over the Nets. The Heat set the tempo all night, playing their usual fast-paced style that extends the court, and the Nets, still getting over their seven-game series with Toronto, could not keep up.
LeBron James led Miami with 22 points on 10-for-15 from the field and basically did whatever he wanted on the court. From the start, the Nets could not guard James. They tried Shaun Livingston, Paul Pierce, Alan Anderson, and Andrei Kirilenko, who took a fool on the first possession he had to guard him. They tried Mirza Teletovic at times, and despite success covering LeBron in the regular season, he was no match for him.
James became the youngest player to hit the 4,000-point plateau in playoff games in the win, and he was asked which was more important, the record or the win, "You definitely know which one was more important, Rachel (Nichols). It was great that we were able to come out the way we did after eight days off. We got a lot of work in, we had eight days off without playing a basketball game, but Spo (Heat coach Erik Spoelstra) got us into the game, we got ourselves into the gym, and it paid off tonight."
The other two parts of the Big 3 did the job as well, with Chris Bosh owning the paint on the way to a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Ray Allen had a big night, with 19 points on 6-for-10 from the field and 4-for-7 from behind the arc.
James said of Allen's night, and if he was motivated going against his former Boston teammates Paul Pierce and LeBron James, "He just focused on the job at hand, and the boost we got from him tonight, we need that, we need that punch off the bench to take pressure off the starters, and he came in with that attitude, I want to contribute to win Game 1."
The Nets started out well, as the starting lineup, which included Shaun Livingston, kept up with Miami, and trailed just 22-20 at the end of the first on a late Allen three. In the second quarter, Miami torched the Nets' bench of Mason Plumlee, Mirza Teletovic, and Marcus Thornton. Miami started the second on a 12-4 run capped by Bosh free throws that made it 34-24 Heat at the 6:41 mark. the play before this was a baseball-like pass from Wade in the backcourt, past a flat-footed Plumlee and Thornton, to Allen under the hoop for an easy layup. Joe Johnson hit a couple of threes, and Deron Williams hit a three at the buzzer to pull the Nets to within three, at 46-43, at halftime.
The third quarter is where Miami took the game over. Bosh scored six straight points to give Miami a 62-52 lead, and James got an easy layup and a short jumper to make it 68-54 with 4:26 left in the third. A Mason Plumlee dunk made it 72-61 Miami with 2:20 left, and the Heat would close the quarter on a 7-0 run capped by two Chris (Birdman) Anderson free throws. The Heat outscored the Nets 33-23 in the third and took a 79-66 lead into the fourth.
What was true in the second was true in the fourth, as Miami once again torched the Nets bench. The epitome of how bad Thornton's night was came around the ten-minute mark when he could not get a consistent dribble going behind the three-point line and Wade stole it and raced down for an easy jumper. The Nets found themselves down 86-70 with 7:05 left when Kevin Garnett came in for Plumlee. Interestingly, Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd did not send Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, or Paul Pierce in with him, in a sign that Kidd knew they were not coming back.
Kidd said of playing the bench in the fourth, "Well, I wanted to get those guys, the starters, a break, get them some rest, and when we went with that group, I thought that group could make some shots, but also get some stops, and get it under ten, but it never happened."
The Nets were led by Williams and Johnson, who had 17 points each and shot well. Williams was 7-for-10 from the field and 3-for-5 from behind the arc, with 3 assists, 3 rebounds, and a steal. Johnson was 7-for-11 overall and 3-for-6 on 3-pointers.
Kevin Garnett was held scoreless in a playoff game for the first time in his career. KG's resurgence in Games 6 and 7 did not continue in this one, as he was ineffective and Miami ran everything at him when he was on the court. He shot 0-for-2 and had just 4 rebounds. Livingston, back in the starting lineup, had a tough night, as he scored just 9 points and had 3 assists and was a -23. Anderson, who was in the starting lineup for the the Nets wins in Games 6 and 7 of the Toronto series, should be put back in there for Game 2.
Miami outscored the Nets 52-28 in the paint, and Kidd said of that, "We couldn't protect the paint to start the game, and then pretty much during the whole game, we couldn't keep them out of the paint, so that's something that we have to look at to get better at. At the other end, we have to move the ball, the ball was sticking too much."
This is Miami's first win against the Nets this season, and Kidd said of Miami turning it up a notch tonight, "This is the defending champs, so it's always gonna be a high level, and we have to find a way to match it."