Posts Tagged ‘Rashard Lewis’

Andersen injury has allowed Heat to find a new lineup that works


VIDEO: Pacers-Heat Game 6 Preview

MIAMI – Has another injury forced the Miami Heat into another lineup change that will help them win a championship?

It was two years ago when Chris Bosh suffered an abdominal injury in Game 1 of the conference semifinals against Indiana. His absence forced Shane Battier into the starting lineup and unlocked the Heat’s floor spacing around LeBron James, turning them into an offensive juggernaut and two-time champions.

Rashard Lewis (Ron Hoskins/NBAE)

Rashard Lewis (Ron Hoskins/NBAE)

In Game 3 of this year’s Eastern Conference finals, Chris Andersen suffered a bruised left thigh. Andersen wasn’t starting, but his absence forced another lineup shuffle by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. Because the Heat needed a back-up center, Udonis Haslem went from starter to reserve, and Rashard Lewis — who hadn’t played in the first two games — was inserted into the starting lineup for Game 4.

Andersen could be back for Game 6 on Friday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) — he’s a game-time decision — but it seems unlikely that Spoelstra would remove Lewis from the starting lineup either way.

Lewis is a series-high plus-35 in the conference finals. Though he shot 0-for-7 in Games 3 and 4, the Miami offense has been at its best with Lewis on the floor. His work (and “work” is the right word here) against David West has allowed the Heat to remain strong defensively without playing big.

With the best player in the world, Miami has a lot of combinations that work. But the one with Haslem wasn’t working that well. Haslem is a series-low minus-43. He has hurt Miami’s spacing offensively and hasn’t been able to make up for it with defense and rebounding. Even in the Charlotte series, which the Heat swept, he was a minus-17.

Going into the conference finals, the Heat just didn’t have many alternatives at the second forward spot. Battier’s minutes are limited as he approaches retirement. And Michael Beasley never earned a postseason role. Neither can really handle West defensively.

Lewis can. He’s listed as 15 pounds lighter than West, but he held his own against bigger power forwards when he played for the Orlando Magic. And now that he’s rediscovered his shot (he hit six of his nine threes in Game 5 on Wednesday), he can provide even more spacing for James offensively.

So with 25-30 minutes of Lewis, a dash of Battier and a fourth quarter that features their three-guard lineup, the Heat don’t have to play big, save for a few Bosh-Andersen minutes, in which they still have solid floor spacing. That floor spacing  has made Indiana’s No. 1 defense struggle to get stops.

“They spread you out,” West said Thursday. “We’re not matching up in transition as well as we should. They’re getting us cross-matched. We just got to get a man to a body in transition.”

If they can do that, there’s still the question of what they should try to take away.

“We expect LeBron to have a huge night and be able to play his game,” Paul George said. “But we can’t let Rashard Lewis go for 18 from the 3-point line. That’s an area that we feel like we can cut out, the whole team in general. We do a great job of being able to guard the paint as well as the 3-point line.”

West, the guy who’s responsible for defending Lewis, says it’s a balance.

“We’re not going to overreact,” West said. “A lot of it is the system stuff that we’re doing, just having some breakdowns, maybe putting too many guys in front of LeBron. But we got to take our chances. We have to load to LeBron, load to Wade, and force those other guys to make plays and beat us.”

Lewis hadn’t hit six threes since the 2009 Finals. He probably isn’t going to hit six again. But whether he’s making shots or not, his presence on the floor is working for the Heat.

Thirteen different players have started playoff games for the Heat over the last four years. Spoelstra isn’t afraid to make changes when needed. Don’t be surprised if Lewis, who played just 47 minutes in last year’s postseason, is starting in The Finals.

Game 6: Welcome to West’s neighborhood


VIDEO: The GameTime crew previews Game 6

MIAMI – The antics of the Indiana Pacers’ wild child have dominated the Eastern Conference finals’ news cycle over the past several game nights and off-days.

It might be time, however, for the Pacers to put away childish things. And look to their resident grown-up, David West.

West is about as far removed from Lance Stephenson as anyone on the Indiana roster gets. West doesn’t blow in opponents’ ears in a juvenile attempt to get under their skin. He has been known, though, to cast a withering glare in some guys’ direction, the intent behind it – along with West’s burly 6-foot-9, 250 pounds and New Jersey no-nonsense roots – understood and wisely heeded.

West doesn’t yap, either. He chooses his words carefully and doles them out sparingly, such that they resonate way beyond the motor-mouths’ banter. Usually his message is loud and clear before he utters a word.

This is Game 6 coming up, West’s killing field twice already in these 2014 playoffs and the moment that, unless it belongs to West, might not belong to the Pacers.

“It’s not something I go out and look to do,” West said of his Game 6 performances against Atlanta in the first round and Washington in the East semifinals. “It’s part of how the game goes. Sort of what the moment dictates.”

Those moments dictated desperation. Against the Hawks, Indiana was right where it is now: down 3-2, on the road, its season in jeopardy. The Pacers had fallen behind 84-79 in the fourth quarter when West had had enough – he scored 12 of his 24 points in that period and sparked the 16-4 run with which Indiana closed the game .It was the power forward’s first double-double of the postseason.

Against Washington, the circumstances weren’t quite as dire: Indiana led 3-2 in the series. But the precocious Wizards had blown out the East’s No. 1 seed in Indianapolis by 23 points and were gaining confidence. West and the Pacers didn’t want lose at Verizon Center and have to put their home court to the test.

“My message to [teammates] was, ‘Just come to me,’ ” West said that day. “Ultimately I wanted it to be on my shoulders. If we lost this game, I wanted it to be on me.”

So West scored 29 points, hitting 13-of-26 shots, the most field-goal attempts he’s ever taken with Indiana and his most, period, since he was playing for New Orleans in 2009.

Said Indiana center Roy Hibbert: “He’s a veteran player who’s been through it all. He exudes a lot of confidence and he’s very contagious.”

Here’s a comparison of West’s work in two Game 6s vs. his other 16 playoff games:

G6: 26.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 5.0 apg, 23.0 FGA, 50.0 FG%

Others: 14.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 4.0 apg, 11.8 FGA, 47.9 FG%

Against the Heat so far, West has averaged 16.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists, and he’s shooting 53.1 percent but on 12.8 attempts. He has faced a gauntlet of defenders against Miami coach Erik Spoelstra‘s multiple matchups, from LeBron James out of position and out of sorts in Game 1 to Shane Battier and most recently Rashard Lewis.

West, 33, never has been the type of player who consciously has tried to take over games. Even for guys who do, that often doesn’t go well. The pressure’s too great and the defense dedicates itself to choking him off, and that can be that.

But the approach West took in that elimination game in Atlanta, the resolve he flexed on the Wizards’ floor two weeks ago, is needed now more than ever. And as West said in Washington: “I just wasn’t going to leave anything in the clip, y’know? I felt like I had to get beyond what I usually do. … We easily could have been home already.”

The Pacers want to go home now, they just want to drag Miami back with them. They played the entire 2013-14 season for one thing: To have Game 7 of the East finals at home against the Heat. To get there, they all have to go through Game 6, and maybe David West.

This time, Hibbert meets LeBron


VIDEO: Heat vs. Pacers: Game 5

INDIANAPOLIS – This go-around, Roy Hibbert was on the floor.

Travel back in time to Game 1 of last year’s conference finals in Miami. The Indiana Pacers led by one with just 2.2 seconds left in overtime. And Pacers coach Frank Vogel took Hibbert — “the best rim protector in the game” in Vogel’s own words — off the floor, so that his team could switch all screens and stay with the Miami Heat’s shooters, including Chris Bosh.

LeBron James caught the inbounds pass at the 3-point line and Paul George got caught out too high. James immediately turned and darted to the basket. Hibbert wasn’t there and James laid in the game-winning bucket at the buzzer.

“It’s the dilemma that they present,” Vogel said after the loss. “Obviously, with the way it worked out, it would have been better to have Roy in the game. But you don’t know. If that happens, maybe Bosh is making the jump shot, and we’re all talking about that.”

At the end of Game 5 of this year’s Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday, we saw a very similar situation. The Pacers were holding on to a two-point lead with 12.8 seconds left.

James caught the inbounds pass and was isolated at the top of the key with George. And once again, he got past him.

But this time Hibbert was on the floor, and he met James at the rim…

20140529_last_play_3

“We didn’t want to give up a 3,” Vogel said afterward. “But we didn’t want to give up LeBron James at the rim, like we’d done the past two. So we made sure we had rim protection and scrambled on the 3-point line.”

James, as he always does, made the pass to the open man, Bosh in the corner. It was the scenario that Vogel was planning against last year. And with this one being a two-point game instead of a one-point game, the value of the shot meant something this time.

“Thought we got a pretty good look,” James said. “You live with the result.”

“He went for the kill,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’ll take that. We’ll take being able to get two feet in the paint, an opportunity to either score yourself or have an opportunity for one of our better clutch 3-point shooters in his spot. That actually was good to see that poise.”

When the Heat came back to win Game 2 on this floor, their second-half run began with a few plays just like this. Spanning the third and fourth quarters, they hit three corner 3s (one from Bosh and two from Norris Cole) on plays just like this one. James got to the basket, drew an extra defender and found an open teammate with a bullet pass. It’s the Heat’s bread-and-butter.

“My teammates trust me that I’m going to make the right play to helps us win,” James said. “I trust myself that I’m going to make the right play to helps us win. And win, lose or draw, you live with that.

“We got a great look. C.B. makes that shot, then we get a stop and we’re headed to The Finals.”

As Spoelstra noted, Bosh was one of the best clutch 3-point shooters in the league in the regular season, shooting 16-for-31 (52 percent) on 3s in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime with a score differential of five points or less. He’s had a knack for hitting big shots from distance.

But he’s usually wide open on those plays. On Wednesday, George Hill was able to get in Bosh’s vision and provide an on-the-side shot contest.

20140529_last_play_2

Hill was able to do that because Miami’s spacing was not ideal. When James hit the paint, Bosh, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis were all on the right side of the floor, with Allen and Lewis bunched together at the right wing.

20140529_last_play_1

So when Hibbert helped on the drive, Hill didn’t have far to travel to contest Bosh. And when he did, David West had already rotated over to Allen.

20140529_last_play_4

“I asked Ray,” Bosh said later. “I said, ‘Were you open?’ He said, ‘Yeah, he came off me.'”

But the only guy open was Lewis at the top of the key. And that’s a tough pass for Bosh to make, especially with West in his line of sight.

The Pacers defended the play well, but the Heat gave them some help. If Lewis had been quicker to fill in behind James at the top of the key, the spacing might have been better and Indiana’s rotations would have been tougher.

A feigned pick-and-roll where Lewis flares out to the left wing as James drives past would also have left just one Indiana defender to defend Bosh and Allen on the right side. A kick to Bosh and a swing to Allen may have resulted in the one of the best 3-point shooters in NBA history being all alone beyond the arc.

But the Heat still got a decent look. And both teams were willing to live with the results.

“LeBron is the smartest player in this league,” George said. “He’s going to make the right play, and he thought that was the right play. They made 15 3s tonight. So obviously, they were hot behind the 3-point line. He found a 3-point shooter that’s been hot lately for them in Chris Bosh. We were fortunate he missed. We walk away with a win.”

Allen in, Andersen out for Game 5


VIDEO: Game 5 Preview: Heat vs. Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS – Ray Allen will play for the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals  on Wednesday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). But Chris Andersen will sit his second straight game with a left thigh bruise.

Allen went through his normal pregame shooting routine and then received treatment for a right hip injury suffered late in the third quarter of Monday’s Game 4 victory. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said that the full shooting routine wasn’t necessarily an indication that he would play.

“Ray is going to do that one way or another no matter what,” Spoelstra said. “Nothing is going to stop him from that routine.”

But Allen is good to go. Andersen is not. Rashard Lewis will start his second straight game, with Udonis Haslem backing up Chris Bosh at center.

“It’s mobility,” Spoelstra said of the concern for Andersen. “He doesn’t have much of it right now. It is getting a little bit better, but he doesn’t have a whole lot of mobility.”

Allen, Andersen questionable for Game 5


VIDEO: Ray Allen sustains a hip injury in Game 4 of the Heat-Pacers series

INDIANAPOLIS – The Miami Heat may be down another man for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

The Heat played without Chris Andersen in Game 4 on Monday, and may also be without Ray Allen for Game 5. Neither Allen nor Andersen participated in the team’s shootaround Wednesday morning.

Allen was clipped by a David West screen in the final minute of the third quarter on Monday, immediately grabbed his right hip, and was replaced. But he returned for the final possession of the period and played the entire fourth.

But as was the case with Andersen’s thigh bruise (suffered in Game 3), it’s a case of the injury being worse the next day.

Allen didn’t speak with the media Wednesday morning. Andersen spoke and said he was unsure of whether he’s be able to play in Game 5.

The Heat’s reserves have been a big part of their success in this series. Allen and Norris Cole have given the offense a big lift and the defense has been at its best with Andersen on the floor.

If Andersen is out again, we’ll see more of Rashard Lewis and less of two bigs on the floor together. And if Allen is out, James Jones will surely see some playing time.


VIDEO: Game 5 Preview: Heat vs. Pacers

Andersen out for Game 4, Lewis to start

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


VIDEO: GameTime: Rachel Nichols

MIAMI – The Miami Heat are down a man (or a bird) for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals on Monday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). Chris Andersen is on the inactive list with a left thigh contusion.

This is not a minor note. The Heat have been at their best in this series with Andersen on the floor. He’s a plus-28 (tied with Ray Allen for the series-high) in 70 minutes.

“This is a big-muscle series,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said before Game 3, “so we need what he brings to the table.”

In a related move, Rashard Lewis will get just his seventh start of the season in place of Udonis Haslem. That allows the Heat to use Haslem as the backup center behind Chris Bosh. But without Andersen, Miami loses its ability to play big much more than a few minutes, unless Spoelstra decides to dust off Greg Oden.

Bosh and Haslem are a minus-38 in just 34 minutes together in the series.

Pacers need a lift from their bench

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew previews Game 4 of the Heat-Pacers series

MIAMI – Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

The Indiana Pacers’ starting lineup has outscored the Miami Heat (by 29 points) in its floor time in the Eastern Conference finals. But when the Pacers have had one or more reserves on the floor, they’ve been pretty awful (minus-34). And thus, they’re down 2-1 with a need to get Game 4 on Monday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Yes, this is the same story as we had in last year’s conference finals, when the Pacers’ starters were a plus-49 in seven games and all other Indiana lineups were a minus-77.

With that in mind, reworking the bench was the focus of the Pacers’ summer. They traded for Luis Scola and signed C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland. But in the regular season, lineups that included at least one reserve were only slightly better (plus-2.0 points per 100 possessions) than they were last season (plus-1.8).

In February, the Pacers signed Andrew Bynum and traded Danny Granger for Evan Turner, moves that somehow threw their starters in a funk. They’ve been better in the postseason, but the bench is back to bringing the Pacers down.

The playoff numbers aren’t as bad as they were last season, but Indiana lineups with at least one reserve on the floor have been pretty dreadful offensively and have been outscored by 4.4 points per 100 possessions in 16 games. In this series, they’ve been awful on both ends of the floor and have been outscored by 30.3.

Scola scored eight straight points in the second quarter on Saturday, but has shot 2-for-11 otherwise. Ian Mahinmi has played just 23 minutes in three games. Turner has played just three, and managed to dribble straight into a triple-team upon entering Game 3. Watson has the worst plus-minus (minus-31 in 58 minutes) in the series.

The only reserve that hasn’t hurt the Pacers in this series is Rasual Butler. Meanwhile, the Heat have gotten lifts from Ray Allen, Chris Andersen, Norris Cole and Rashard Lewis, all of whom have been trusted and empowered much more than anyone on Indiana’s bench.

That’s why some of this has to come back on Pacers coach Frank Vogel. In a sprint for the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage (which they lost in Game 2) from the start of the season, the Pacers weren’t willing to sacrifice games to develop their bench. Over the last two seasons, the Indiana starting lineup has played almost twice as many minutes (3,429) as any other lineup in the league.

Part of that is health. They’ve been fortunate that none of their starters have missed more than eight games in either season.

Part of it is dependence. When the starters are much better than the reserves, teams tend to stick with them for longer minutes.

But part of it is a lack of foresight. Scola, Watson and Mahinmi had regular roles during the season, but guys like Copeland and Butler were basically used in garbage time.

And so, while the Heat can adjust their lineup however they need to according to the matchup or who’s playing well (witness Cole and Allen helping them destroy Indiana in Saturday’s fourth quarter), the Pacers are rather rigid.

When his team is struggling to match up with Miami’s small lineup in transition and David West is chasing Allen around multiple screens, there’s little Vogel can do. He isn’t going to take West off the floor, because he’s his most stable and dependable player. If he benches Roy Hibbert, Vogel has lost his rim protection against the best rim attacker in the league.

Foul trouble is another problem. With George Hill and Paul George forced to sit extra minutes in Game 3, the Pacers’ defense didn’t hold up. Lance Stephenson was forced to play all of the final three quarters and looked gassed as the Heat pulled away in the fourth.

In its last six wins, Miami has outscored its opponents in the fourth quarter by an average score of 26.5-19.5. The Heat haven’t been superb all game, every game, but they get it done when they need to.

Might the Pacers’ starters be able to hang with the champs better in the fourth quarter if their reserves had given them a little more production and rest earlier in the game?

That question may still linger if Indiana doesn’t turn this series back around on Monday. To do that, they’ll need more production from the bench.

Lewis’ reserve role with Heat would not have fit his younger self

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com

A notable scorer prior to arriving in Miami, Rashard Lewis has sacrificed to fit the Heat mold.

A notable scorer prior to arriving in Miami, Rashard Lewis has sacrificed to fit the Heat mold.

MIAMI – The 24-year-old Rashard Lewis would have wanted no part of this 34-year-old Rashard Lewis guy or, for that matter, the job he has.

If RL34 tried to pitch his role with the Miami Heat to RL24 – a lot of sitting, scarce playing time, limited touches on those occasions when you do play and a heavy priority on defense – the younger version of himself might have walked away muttering expletives and fearing insanity in his future.

“Ten years ago? [Bleep],” Lewis said Sunday, talking after the Heat’s practice about him then vs. him now. “I’d have been [hacked] off.

“Even if we was winning the ball game, I’d have been sitting over there furious. If I was in the game and felt like I hadn’t gotten a shot in a long time, and it came to the fourth quarter and zero points, I probably would have taken a bad shot trying to get myself going.”

Lewis came into the NBA projected as, and expecting to be, a star. He was drafted straight out of a Elsik High in Alief, Texas, by Seattle in the second round of the 1998 Draft and the only reason he slid that low was because he was 19 and the preps-to-pros thing still was sorting itself out. Not every high school kid was proving to be Kobe Bryant or Kevin Garnett. But Lewis figured to be plenty good and after a couple of years, he got real traction with the Sonics.

By age 24, in 2003-04, the 6-foot-10 forward was logging 37 minutes nightly, putting up 15 or 16 shots and averaging in the high teens. The next year, he was named to his first of two All-Star teams and began a streak of three seasons averaging at least 20 points.

In 2007, Lewis “got paid” – overpaid actually, in a six-year, $118 million sign-and-trade deal to Orlando – and while he never grew into that contract as a superstar or a franchise guy, Lewis did make it to another All-Star Game, led the league in 3-point attempts and makes and helped the Magic reach the 2009 Finals.

And yet here he was at 34, getting praised for a Game 3 performance in the Eastern Conference finals in which he played almost 18 minutes, shot 0-2, didn’t grab a rebound and went home scoreless. RL24 wouldn’t have wanted any part of that stats line, either, but RL34 felt proud of it because the players and coaches around him were pleased.

“It’s big time,” Miami’s LeBron James said. “For the non‑basketball people, you look at this stat sheet and see zeros across the board. When he was on the floor, it was a plus-21. That’s winning basketball. He sacrificed, defended, and he helped us get the lead. There’s a plus on the floor with him out there.’

Lewis hadn’t played at all in the first two games against Indiana, but when Chris Bosh got into foul trouble, coach Erik Spoelstra called on Lewis primarily to guard Pacers power forward David West. His best work came in the second quarter, then Lewis played nine minutes, West played 12 and the Indiana strongman got up only two shots for two points.

“He just brought energy,” Spoelstra said Sunday. “It was just we went deeper in the rotation. And maybe that’s a function of having a fresh body at that point in the game. It was a spark. It wasn’t necessarily planned. It just happened, we had to go deeper, and he produced.” (more…)

Numbers preview: Pacers-Heat

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


VIDEO: Heat-Pacers: Round 5

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – While the Miami Heat have thrived, the Indiana Pacers have survived.

But how well each team has played over the last couple of months doesn’t matter. The team that reaches The Finals is the one that plays better over the next four to seven games.

The Heat have had the No. 1 offense in the postseason thus far. The Pacers have had the No. 1 defense. The champs have the league’s best finisher and the challengers have the league’s best rim protector. The Eastern Conference finals, of course, will be determined on both ends of the floor.

Here are some statistical nuggets regarding the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the East, as well as the four games they played against each other during the regular season.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
Stats and rankings are for the playoffs.

Indiana Pacers (56-26)

Beat Atlanta in 7 games.
Beat Washington in 6 games.
Pace: 92.5 (10)
OffRtg: 99.2 (14)
DefRtg: 96.8 (1)
NetRtg: +2.4 (4)

Regular season: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
vs. Miami: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
Playoffs: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups

Playoff notes:

Miami Heat (54-28)

Beat Charlotte in 4 games.
Beat Brooklyn in 5 games.
Pace: 88.2 (15)
OffRtg: 113.2 (1)
DefRtg: 104.2 (6)
NetRtg: +9.0 (2)

Regular season: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
vs. Indiana: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
Playoffs: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups

Playoff notes:

The matchup

Season series: Tied 2-2 (home team won all four games)
Pace: 89.9
IND OffRtg: 98.1 (25th vs. MIA)
MIA OffRtg: 101.0 (6th vs. IND)

Matchup notes:

After break, Heat avoid rust and find rhythm in Game 1

By Lang Whitaker, NBA.com


VIDEO: Heat cruise to 107-86 rout of Nets in opener

MIAMI — Heat coach Erik Spoelstra entered the American Airlines Arena interview room 90 minutes before tipoff of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals and plopped down at the table.

“All of our guys are available,” Spoelstra said, by way of a pre-empting any questions about injuries.

The floor was then opened for questions, and for 14 seconds the room was as silent as a wake. Finally, with no queries coming, Spoelstra gave a fist pump as he hopped up and walked out of the room.

Honestly, what was left to be said? The Heat had been doing nothing but talking and tuning into other games on TV for the last week since eliminating the Charlotte Bobcats in four games back on April 28. (The monitors flanking Spoelstra in the interview room still displayed the box score from the Heat’s last home game, Game 2 against the Bobcats played way back on April 23.)

Back in live action, the Heat were happy to let their play do the talking, as they put together a dominant performance, winning Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semis against the Brooklyn Nets going away, 107-86.

If they needed a cautionary tale, they didn’t have far to look: Just one season ago, the Heat also had an eight-day break between the first and second rounds. They took on a Bulls team coming off a draining seven-game series, then lost at home to Chicago, 93-86. If the Heat had had any rust from the layoff, they scraped it away well before tipoff and played Game 1 like they were on the second half of a back-to-back.

“It wasn’t easy,” said Chris Bosh, who finished with 15 points and 11 boards. “I was surprised that we did have good rhythm after such a long break. We did not have that last year. I kept saying all week that we felt that we were going to attack this situation better this time. And I think we did.”

“I think the most important thing was the rhythm that we were in,” said LeBron James, who led the Heat with 22 points. “It seemed like we didn’t take much time off at all as far as our rhythm. Ten turnovers, 22 assists, 52 points in the paint — that’s us playing basketball. We didn’t get to the free throw line a lot, but we got to the paint. After eight days off of not playing a game, I feared the rhythm, but now I don’t have to fear it anymore. After the way we played tonight, that’s a step in the direction we want to keep going in.”

“You could see the ball movement on most possessions — moving it two or three passes to find a better shot,” Spoelstra said. “It’s a little bit more to our rhythm and our momentum on how we like to play.”

The Heat talked about their performance like they were speaking of a percussion concert — rhythm, rhythm, rhythm. To make sure the Heat came out on fire, the Heat players credited the coaching staff for keeping them focused throughout the break by mostly pitting them against each other.

“The coaching staff made sure we … went at it in practice,” Rashard Lewis said with a smile. “We got a lot of conditioning in the first few practices, but the last couple of practices we started scrimmaging, we played up and down. And we’re a competitive bunch. We was going at it. Both teams wanted to win, we did a two-minutes drill a couple of times. As teammates, we went at each other and it was almost like a game atmosphere in the practice gym.”

The Heat played a complete game against Brooklyn. Not only did they make nine 3s, but they dominated the interior. In each of the first two quarters, the Heat attempted 10 shots in the paint, building a 26-10 lead in the stat by halftime. They finished with 52 points in the paint, which accounted for 26 field goals made, two less makes than the Nets attempted in the paint.

“We couldn’t protect the paint there to start the game,” said Nets coach Jason Kidd. “Well … during the whole game, we couldn’t keep them out of the paint. That’s something we have to look at and get better at.”

“Just mistakes,” explained Kevin Garnett, who finished with no points and four rebounds in just 16 minutes. “When we made mistakes, they made us pay for it. Back-cuts, coming to the basket, being very aggressive. We need to tear a page out of their book and be as aggressive next game.”

“I think it started on defense,” said Rashard Lewis. “We get stops and we get out, and we spread the court with our shooters, and it gives those lanes for LeBron and Dwyane [Wade] to drive. I thought early in the game we made sure that guys like LeBron and D-Wade were posting up, and we tried to take advantage of different matchups.

“It helps up get into a good rhythm on the offensive end,” Lewis continued. “Instead of just catching and launching 3s, we attacked their defense, make their defense collapse, and throw it out for open shots or for another drive.”

Not everything was rosy for the Heat. For a team that loves to play with pace, the Heat finished with just four fast-break points, as well as a season-low four steals. But they also finished with just 10 turnovers, three fewer than the Nets. And the Nets got worthy performances from Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, who each finished with 17 points. But they were the only Brooklyn starters to crack double-digits.

Sure, the Nets won four straight against the Heat in the regular season, but after one game in the postseason, the Heat go to sleep Tuesday night holding a one-game lead in their series.

And right now, that’s the only streak that matters.