By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Jason Kidd made the right decision to rest most of his starters at the start of the fourth quarter of Game 1 of the conference semifinals. The Brooklyn Nets were down only 13 points, but there was no way they were winning that game.
First of all, the game — like the regular-season meetings between these two teams — was played at a very slow pace. So that 13-point deficit was much tougher to overcome than it would have been in a Western Conference game. Both teams finished the night with just 84 possessions (compared to about 100 apiece in Blazers-Spurs later on).
Secondly, given the shots each team was getting, there was little chance the Nets would get the consistent stops or consistent scores they needed to make it interesting. This game was layups on one end of the floor against contested jump shots on the other. And you could just see the blowout coming when the Nets weren’t able to turn that trend around after halftime.
It was just a three-point game at the half, but Miami had already attempted 15 shots in the restricted area. Brooklyn? Five. By the end of the third quarter, those numbers were 22 and seven. The Heat train was traveling downhill, and Brooklyn wasn’t stopping it. Miami scored 61 points on just 41 possessions in the second half, a ridiculous rate of 149 points per 100 possessions.
The Nets’ defensive issues started early. And there were lots of them.
There was Deron Williams getting caught in no-man’s land as LeBron James posted up …
… a play that resulted in an easy layup for Mario Chalmers, the guy Williams was defending.
There was Mirza Teletovic slow to help on a Chris Andersen roll to the basket…
… a play that resulted in free throws for Birdman.
Layup, layup, layup.
The Nets also didn’t know how to defend the James-as-a-screener plays. Chalmers got two more layups late in the second quarter (here and here) when Alan Anderson stayed attached to James, Williams trailed the play, and no one else came to help.
All of the above came in the first half, when the Heat scored just 46 points on 43 possessions. The second half, when they got going from 3-point range, was much worse for the Nets.
The Heat finished with 29 shots in the restricted area, which was only a tick above their average (28.8) in their four regular-season games against the Nets.
Brooklyn, meanwhile, got just 12 shots at the basket, down from an average of 21.5 in the four regular-season meetings. Defense is where the Heat can really flip the switch, as they did Tuesday.
In fact, Miami forced a 24-second violation on Brooklyn’s first possession, doing a nice job of helping and recovering. The Heat took away the Nets’ primary options, like Shane Battier denying Joe Johnson here …
… a play that resulted in another 24-second violation.
Their rotations were on point. They took away the paint and contested on the perimeter. In the end, these two facts spell out the difference between the Brooklyn offense in the first round and the Brooklyn offense on Tuesday …
- Against Toronto, 28 percent of the Nets’ shots came from the restricted area. In Game 1 on Tuesday, that number was 17%.
- Against Toronto, 64 percent of the Nets’ jump shots were uncontested, according to SportVU. In Game 1 on Tuesday, that number was 51 percent.
Now the Nets have to ask themselves if their defensive mistakes and lack of good shots were more about the Heat or more about their own energy level, coming off a grueling, seven-game series with the Raptors.
There’s certainly evidence that the latter played a part.
Go back to that first Chalmers/James pick-and-roll late in the second quarter. Brooklyn’s Anderson has to stay attached to James, but look at where the other defenders are when Chalmers comes off the screen.
You’d think they’d be able to prevent a layup there. They didn’t.
Offensively, the Nets were weak inside. Miami’s hedge-hard-and-deny defense produced some mismatches down low. But three times in the first half, Brooklyn’s bigs couldn’t score in the paint against Heat wings.
- Here’s Andray Blatche unable to score against Ray Allen.
- Here’s Mason Plumlee failing to take advantage of a quick post-up on Allen.
- And here’s Kevin Garnett unable to score over Shane Battier.
The Nets couldn’t finish. Their ball movement wasn’t very crisp. And some of those contested jumpers were a result of them settling.
On both ends of the floor, the Nets believe that they’ll play better with more energy and focus. But there are no two-day breaks in this round. In fact, because Game 7 in Toronto was a day game on Sunday, they’ve already had the longest break they’ll get before any game in this series.