Josh Newman, SNYNets.com
NEW YORK — The Nets had a plan going into Wednesday evening’s nationally televised 105-85 loss to the Miami Heat, their third defeat in as many games this season against the defending NBA champions.
Employ the seldom-used frontcourt duo of Brook Lopez and Andray Blatche, which had logged a total of just 42 minutes entering Wednesday night. Get those two some touches in the halfcourt, slow the game down and don’t let the Heat, one of the elite transition teams in the NBA, turn the game into a track meet. Even more importantly against a team like the Heat are things like win the rebounding battle, control the offensive glass and limit their second chance opportunities while getting some of your own.
For the better part of two and a half quarters, the Nets were right there. Lopez, named to the All-Star team for the first time late Wednesday afternoon, scored 13 points in the first half, Blatche shot 5-for-5 from the field in the second quarter, the pace was to the Nets’ liking and they erased a 10-point deficit after one quarter to tie the game at 49-all at halftime.
Then, about midway through the third quarter, the Heat reminded everyone of a few things. LeBron James, as Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo said at practice on Monday, is unguardable. Additionally, the Nets may have what they believe is a blueprint for success against the Heat, but their execution on both ends against them has left much to be desired.
“I thought Brook and Dray really did a good job protecting the basket and the second quarter was a hell of a quarter,” Carlesimo said. “In the first four or five minutes (of the second half), I thought we were alright, we just shot ourselves in the foot offensively. We were running some good stuff, we had some looks and we couldn’t finish inside. We needed to do a much better job when it went bad on both ends.”
The undoing that was a 36-14 third quarter presented a laundry list of items to place blame on. Thanks to a fast and aggressive Heat defense, the Nets attempted only 12 shots and turned the ball over eight times.
While the Heat’s defense could be described as unnerving, their offense got in gear. James, relatively quiet during the first half by his own standards, shot 4-for-5 and scored 10 points in the third quarter. Having a career-year from 3-point range, James hit back-to-back treys at one point to give his team a 71-57 lead with 4:20 to play in the period. The reigning NBA MVP finished with 24 points to go along with nine rebounds and seven assists.
The third quarter on Wednesday was similar to the third quarter during the second meeting between the two teams, a 102-89 Miami win on Dec. 1. Down as many as 14 at one point, the Heat closed the third quarter on a 15-2 run to take control for good.
“We played great basketball, we were right there for about the first 30 minutes of the game give or take,” Lopez said. “They made a little run and we just didn’t respond. I think we’re just disappointed in ourselves. We really let this one get away. We felt we were playing great ball up to about midway through the third quarter. Like I said, they got on a little run, we didn’t respond and that was it.”
The Nets may have turned things around Carlesimo, but the road to the NBA Finals goes through South Beach. With Wednesday’s win, the Heat swept the season series against the Nets, 3-0, winning the three by an average margin of 21 points.
The loss continued a bad trend of losing to good teams. The Nets are now 10-19 against teams with a .500 record or better. Since Friday, they’ve gotten blown out at the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets in addition to Wednesday’s lopsided result.
The upcoming schedule won’t help matters as the 28-17 Chicago Bulls come to town on Friday before the Los Angeles Lakers head to Brooklyn on Tuesday. The Lakers were just 20-25 entering play on Wednesday night, but had won three straight games while showing signs of finally turning the corner for the first time since just before Christmas.
When asked about losing three of the last four games, Gerald Wallace summed up the mood of the locker room postgame as many players bailed out almost immediately before the media had a chance to get inside.
“We didn’t actually lose those games,” Wallace said. “We got our ass kicked in all three of those games.”
Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA