By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
VIDEO: Heat vs. Nets: Game 3
NEW YORK — As the Chicago Bulls didn’t bother to defend Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans in the first round of last year’s playoffs, Brooklyn Nets forward Mirza Teletovic sat.
Though his team was suffering from a lack of floor spacing, the floor-spacing big played just one garbage-time minute as the Nets got bounced in seven games. Teletovic, a 27-year-old rookie, had never gained the trust of coaches Avery Johnson and P.J. Carlesimo. He got a shot at the rotation for a few weeks after the All-Star break, shot decently, and then rode the pine the rest of the way.
This season, Teletovic had the trust of coach Jason Kidd from the start. His been in the rotation from Day 1 and has had a consistent role. Kidd has never been afraid use his bench for heavy minutes or in key situations.
His trust and his team’s depth paid off in Game 3 of the conference semifinals, a 104-90 victory over the Miami Heat in which Andray Blatche paced the Nets in the first half and in which Teletovic sparked the Nets’ game-deciding third-quarter run with three of his four 3-pointers.
After struggling offensively in the first two games of the series, Brooklyn broke out on Saturday, hitting a franchise-playoff-record 15 treys on 25 attempts and scoring 104 points on just 84 possessions. The passes were a notch crisper than they were in Game 2, and the Heat defense was punished for the attention it put on the ball.
“The thing that was great about it was the ball movement,” Joe Johnson, who shot 5-for-7 from beyond the arc, said, “us getting into the teeth of the defense and kicking out for wide open shots.”
Teletovic’s shots weren’t all wide open, but once he sees one go in, how open he is doesn’t seem to matter. He’s now 11-for-19 from beyond the arc in the series and 17-for-34 in six games against the Heat this season.
His defense has always been a question and is the biggest reason he never earned Carlesimo’s trust last year. But Kidd had him defending LeBron James for a stretch of the third, a period in which the Heat scored just 14 points.
As Miami struggled, Brooklyn found some separation by spreading the floor and moving the ball.
The Heat’s defense can be suffocating, but open shots can be had if the ball moves quickly. Teletovic’s first 3-pointer (video) was an open look from the right corner on a possession in which the Nets passed the ball eight times, including three times in the four seconds before Teletovic’s shot.
Other 3s were just one pass away, as Deron Williams took advantage of the attention he was getting from the Heat defense.
“Some of it came off our defensive schemes,” James said of the Nets’ 3-point shooting, “Shrink the floor on their perimeter guys and close out on their shooters.”
After missing all nine of his shots in Game 2 on Thursday, Williams shot just 3-for-11 in Game 3. The Heat haven’t given him anything easy all series.
But the reason why Williams has struggled to score is the same reason why he dished out 11 assists on Saturday. Because the Heat are showing him so many bodies when he has the ball, his teammates have some space. And Williams maximized his team’s opportunities by pushing the ball up the floor early and often.
“D-Will set the tone,” Kidd said, “by being aggressive and attacking.”
Three of Johnson’s 3s came on transition assists from Williams. Even in the half-court, Williams was at the center of Brooklyn’s ball movement, moving the ball from side to side and making the Miami defense work.
“The way they are playing me with two on the ball and coming up at me,” Williams said, “I need to make the right plays and get people the ball.”
The Nets probably aren’t going to shoot 60 percent from 3-point range again. Some of those 15 treys on Saturday were pretty well contested. They’re still down 2-1 in the series and have a smaller margin for error in every game than their opponent.
But they can continue to take advantage of the Miami defense and give themselves a chance to win with the same offensive mentality that they brought to Game 3.
“If we continue to share the ball, we’ll be successful,” Williams said. “The ball has to be faster than their rotations.”
It helps to have guys who can make shots. You just have to give them the playing time.