The storyline going into Game 1 was that Miami, off for 8 days following the elimination of Charlotte in the first round of the playoffs, would be rusty against a Brooklyn Nets team that had defeated them four times in the regular season.
Uh…not so much.
Though there was some customary sluggishness to start the game, Miami bounced back admirably, eventually blowing out the Nets by 21 points. From a 3 point lead to start the second half, the Heat were able to attack the paint, capitalize on Brooklyn’s weak perimeter defense, and take the lead in the series. While you certainly can’t count out a veteran team like the Nets, Miami has emerged as a clear favorite to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. Let’s look at Game 1 and what can be expected when the teams match up again on Thursday night (on ESPN2) at 7 P.M.
What Went Right For Miami
Scoring in the paint, to the tune of 52 points. Brooklyn typically plays a slower, grind-it-out style of basketball and were able to control, by and large, the pace of the game. But Miami executed the half-court offense to perfection, finding the open man with the extra pass and getting past the Nets’ perimeter defense at will. Couple that with some great 3-point shooting (nearly 40%) and Miami was clearly too much for Brooklyn to handle. In a game when Miami’s leading scorer (LeBron James, of course) provided a below-average 22 points, the Heat’s offense was balanced and the scoring was evenly distributed.
What Went Wrong For Miami
It’s hard to say that anything actually went “wrong” for Miami, especially after a 21-point blowout. But if you had to nitpick, the Heat only attempted 16 free throws and their fast-break offense was limited. These two are typically key aspects to Miami’s offense but Brooklyn was able to limit their turnovers and avoid fouling James, Dwyane Wade and company. A lot of that has to do with Miami simply blowing right by an obviously-exhausted Nets team. With some time off, Brooklyn will likely get back to doing what they do well and the Heat will have to adjust. However, if their last two championship seasons have proven anything, it’s that Miami always finds a way to change their game to produce a victory.
Previous Game’s X-Factor
I’m going to cheat a little and actually list two x-factors; Shane Battier and Ray Allen. With Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd inserting Shawn Livingston into the starting lineup, Miami’s Erik Spoelstra needed to match strategy for strategy. Enter Battier, the veteran, savvy defender that saw limited playing time against the Bobcats in the first round. Well-rested, Battier was able to match up against both Livingston and All-Star Joe Johnson, both of whom were devastating in their first-round series against Toronto. Shane’s footwork and nagging perimeter defense kept Brooklyn from getting too comfortable on offense and his 8 points (including 2-of-4 from beyond the arc) were a nice boost as well.
As for Ray, as much as the matchup between James and Pierce has made the headlines, one can’t forget that Allen as something to prove against his former Celtics teammates. Allen was spotty against the Bobcats but, in just one game, exceeded his production for the whole series against Charlotte. His 19 points (6-of-10, including 4-of-7 on 3-pointers) were second only to James for Miami and he added 4 rebounds and 3 assists as well. He might not be able to maintain that high level of production throughout the rest of the preseason but, for one night, Jesus Shuttlesworth had indeed risen.