Moke Hamilton, NBA Analyst
NEW YORK — Some nail biting, the Nets nearly squandering a seemingly insurmountable lead, some late-game dramatics, a Ray Allen missed free-throw and a LeBron James made three-pointer—that is what most of the national audience that witnessed the Nets’ 101-100 victory on Friday night will be talking about.
What most will ignore, though, is the fact that the Nets outhustled and outworked the HEAT for the gross majority of the game and mostly dominated James and his crew.
“It’s nothing we haven’t seen before,” Chris Bosh dismissively answered when asked how the HEAT will deal with the Nets’ upgraded size.
And that is true. It is something the HEAT have seen before, but more and more, it is proving to be something more and more difficult for them to conquer.
That, above all else, is what Nets fans should take away from Friday night’s victory.
Yes, size matters and Brooklyn proved it.
Over the course of last season, despite their 49-win campaign, it was very rare that Brooklyn Nets asserted their will on their opposition and hustled their way to a victory.
It has taken all of one game for the Nets to do that this season and there was no better team to do it against than the defending NBA Champion HEAT. After mortgaging their future for a two-year window of making a title run, the Nets have done something they have not done since March 20, 2009—beat the HEAT.
Perspective is key. Friday night’s win over James’ team guarantees nothing.
NBA titles are won in May and June, not October and November.
But at the very least, and for one night, the Nets showed that they have the interior depth and talent to give the HEAT trouble—just like the Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs did last season.
Bosh was right, the HEAT have seen this before.
En route to winning their second NBA Championship, the HEAT had to overcome a decisive size and interior muscle disadvantage against the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals and came within mere seconds of succumbing to the Spurs for the same reason in the Finals.
The frustration on the part of the HEAT, losing the rebounding and second chance point battles and giving up 32 points in the paint—it all gave them nasty memories of the toughest moments of last season’s title run.
With their appreciable size up front, the Nets have assembled a roster that could potentially exploit the same weakness of the mighty HEAT—especially on a night when Dwyane Wade is not 100 percent.
A single victory over the NBA’s defending champion cannot give you a ring, but it can give you hope. Over the duration of the contest, there were a number of things to take away—Paul Pierce’s solid all-around play, Alan Anderson’s healthy contribution and the Nets willingness to attack the paint—but the story of the game was the fact that the combination of Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez, Andray Blatche and Andrei Kirilenko combined for 36 points and 21 rebounds and helped the Nets build a big enough cushion to survive a late rally by the HEAT and ultimately emerge victorious in front of their home fans.
Certainly, if one searches hard enough, there are some concerns with the persistence of the Nets’ seeming inability to put opponents away. And although a single victory over the HEAT in November means almost nothing in the grand scheme of things, it does mean something for now.
The Nets did not receive an above average performance from any player. Deron Williams did not score 50 points, Paul Pierce did not convert 10 three-pointers.
No, they simply played their game and executed a game plan that is both transferrable and repeatable.
There was no overextension of any player, no superhuman effort and no last second miracle.
That is noteworthy.
The Spurs and Pacers have shown the NBA onlooker what it takes the challenge the HEAT and, to their credit, general manager Billy King and his right-hand man Bobby Marks have constructed a roster that is similarly equipped.
Obviously, the concerns that the Nets had to begin the season are still there. Staying healthy will be difficult over the 82-game long season and guard depth—though not a problem on Friday night—may still prove to be their Achilles heel.
Still, for a change, the Nets prevailed over the Miami HEAT.
They did it with heart, they did it with passion and they did it with an obviously indefatigable desire to emerge victorious over James and his two-time defending champions.
Size matters, especially in the NBA and over the years, the HEAT have slowly learned that the hard way.
With a deep front line, passion and heart, the Nets now have the tools and personnel to exploit it.
Moke Hamilton is the NBA Analyst for SNY.tv, contributing to SNYNets.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MokeHamilton