Plumlee Blocks LeBron to cap Nets' sweep of Heat
By Jason Schott - @JESchott19
The Nets beat the Miami Heat 88-87 on Tuesday night, completing the four-game regular season sweep of the two-time champions. The Nets are the only team to go undefeated against the Heat this season.
The game ended on what might turn out to be the play of the year for Brooklyn. Mason Plumlee blocked a dunk attempt by LeBron James in the final seconds. James got the feed from Rashard Lewis, who was under the hoop and found James driving the lane. Joe Johnson tried to strip James of the ball as he began his leap for the hoop, and got a break as he was not called for a reach-in foul. Plumlee surged in from the other side of the lane and pushed the ball out of James' hand right in front of the rim before making contact with LeBron's right hand.
Because of that contact, LeBron was incensed that a foul was not called. He even watched a replay on the video board and looked very angered. After the game, he made his feelings very clear, saying "It was a foul. He got my right hand."
Sorry LeBron, you can't get every call.
The key was that Plumlee got the ball first, and any contact after that is secondary, meaning not worthy of a foul. Plumlee told TNT's Craig Sager that as long as three guys, meaning the referees, thought it was a block, that's all that counts. Plumlee told Sager about guarding LeBron, and said, "You have to guard him with multiple guys...try to make him kick it because he's such a great player. You have to commit multiple guys, so I thought Shaun (Livingston) did a great job individually on him, and the guys were ready to rotate over."
The Nets dominated this one early, leading 26-18 after the first, but Miami went on an 11-2 run in the second quarter to make it 35-34 Brooklyn and go into the half trailing the Nets by a point, at 44-43.
The Nets came out firing to start the third, with Paul Pierce getting a couple of baskets and Joe Johnson draining a long jumper to make it 50-43. The Heat responded with a 13-3 run capped by James hitting a free throw off a technical foul taken by Paul Pierce, who gave it to the refs for an idiotic offensive foul call. The Heat maintained control of the third, and it ended with a James driving layup that gave them a 65-62 lead heading into the fourth.
Part of the reason the Nets lost their big lead was they did not hit a three-pointer in the second or third quarters. That futility streak ended early in the fourth when Marcus Thornton and Pierce hit back-to-back threes to give Brooklyn a 72-69 lead with 8:12 left in the game.
The lead went back and forth, and the Heat took the lead, at 82-81, on a James dunk with 3:15 left. The Nets had a chance to take the lead a minute later when Deron Williams got to the line and he inexplicably missed both free throws. On the Heat's ensuing possession, Plumlee blocked a Chris Bosh shot getting it in the air while it was still on the way up; a split second later it probably would have been a goaltend.
Thornton hit another three at the 1:40 mark, followed by a Johnson jumper (Mr. Clutch as always) to give the Nets an 86-82 lead with 1:00 left. LeBron got a three-point play on the Heat's next possession, but the Nets responded with Plumlee making a layup on a feed from D-Will with 41 seconds left. Chris Bosh got a dunk with 34 seconds left to make it 88-87 Brooklyn. Joe Johnson could have put it away with a three with 10 seconds left, but it rimmed out, and Miami did not take a timeout and went straight up the court to set up James for a dunk that was swatted away by Plumlee with no time left on the clock.
The Nets were led by Marcus Thornton, who had 16 points off the bench and played right until the end. Thornton had 16 points on 6-8 shooting and 4-5 on three-pointers, with 6 rebounds, 1 assist, and an impressive four steals.
Joe Johnson led the Nets in scoring with 19 points on 9-for-17 from the field and 1-for-4 from behind the arc. Paul Pierce had 14 points (5-8 FG), 4 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 steals. Deron Williams had 8 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals. Mirza Teletovic had 11 points off the bench (4-8 FG, 2-3 3-pt), but his main contribution was on defense, as he had the task of guarding James down the stretch in the fourth quarter.
The Nets' three wins earlier in the season were classics like this one, starting with the Nets beating Miami in the home opener on November 1st by a score of 101-100. On January 10th at Barclays Center, the Nets hosted by Miami amidst the start of their 2014 rebirth, and they beat Miami 104-95 in double overtime. The Nets traveled to Miami on March 12th and won it 96-95, with the game ending on a steal by Shaun Livingston in the final seconds.
Plumlee, who had 8 points and 8 rebounds on Tuesday night, said of sweeping the season series with the Heat, "This is good, more importantly, this is the game that we're gonna be tested going into the playoffs, so we're just trying to execute late in the game, and I thought we did that."
The Nets improved to 43-34, and are now 33-13 since the start of 2014, the best in the Eastern Conference. They gained a half-game on the Toronto Raptors and the Chicago Bulls, who were both inactive tonight, and are now two games behind both of them in the race for home-court in the playoffs.