By Lang Whitaker, NBA.com
MIAMI — After last night’s Game 1 loss at the hands of the Miami Heat, the general feeling in the Brooklyn Nets’ losing locker room was muted. Were they angry? Were they sad?
“Can’t be angry, can’t be frustrated,” said Andray Blatche. “It’s one game. It’s one game of seven.”
The Nets came into the series against the Heat having won all four regular season meetings, and surely they felt as though they were a team to be reckoned in Game 1.
The Heat apparently didn’t get the memo. The Nets were beaten in nearly every important statistical category — rebounds, assists, turnovers, points in the paint, attempts in the restricted area, and, of course, total points, as Miami won 107-86.
Twelve hours later, the Nets took the court at the American Airlines Arena for practice, and if there was one thing they agreed upon, it was that their defense needed a lift in Game 2 if they hoped to get back to their winning ways. Their offense? Sure, it wasn’t perfect, particularly the way they seemed fine with settling for jump shots. But as Deron Williams noted, their offense doesn’t matter if they can’t stop the Heat.
“Our defense wasn’t where it needed to be, that’s the first thing,” Williams said. “You can talk about the offense all you want, but defense is why we lost that game. A lot of mistakes. We need to play better offense, as well, but if we play defense like that we have no shot.”
The Nets need to complement an uptick in aggression with better defense positioning. The Heat seemed to be running layup lines throughout Game 1, getting to the rim at will.
“We have to protect the paint,” said coach Jason Kidd. “We gave up too many paint touches and too many layups. We have to make them a perimeter team and put pressure on them to shoot jump shots and not layups.”
As dominant as Miami was, the Nets were still in the game much of the way. Miami’s lead was just 3 with 8:39 to play in the third before the Heat went on an 18-5 run that broke the game open for good. And it wasn’t even that the Heat were getting and compiling paint appearances on fast breaks — they finished with just 4 fast break points. Miami’s success was fueled by ball movement and player movement, and the Nets just never matched their level of activity.
“We had too many lanes for them,” Blatche said. “We let them do pretty much what they wanted to do. Tomorrow we’ve got to step up to the challenge and be super aggressive on defense.”
“You can’t let the other guys around LeBron and Wade have 15, 17 points,” added Joe Johnson, referencing the performance of Miami players like Ray Allen (19 points), Chris Bosh (15) and Mario Chalmers (12). “To beat this team, you can’t allow that, you can’t have that.”
Being down in a playoff series is nothing knew to most of these Nets players, and not even to this Nets team — they were down 3-2 in the first round to the Toronto Raptors before winning the final two games and the series.
For a team that has been through as many high-profile situations as the Nets have over the past year, one loss does not end a season. Not yet, anyway.
“That’s why we have a Game 2,” Kidd said. “Another opportunity to go at it, and hopefully we can limit those mistakes.”
Desperation may yet make an appearance in this series. But if so, it’s not hanging around the Brooklyn Nets just yet.