For a third straight game, the Brooklyn Nets and the Miami Heat played to a near draw in the first half. But unlike the first two games, it was the Nets who broke through and took a double-digit lead before closing out the Heat 104-90.
Deron Williams and Kevin Garnett both quickly scored for the Nets at the outset, offsetting their zero points in Game 2. But LeBron James quickly responded and finished the first quarter with 16 of the Heat's 30 points on a variety of maneuvers and shots at the basket. Even with the King's dominance, the Nets continued to control the pace of the game with a team effort that included Joe Johnson also red-hot from the field and reserve Andray Blatche doing damage in the paint despite the best efforts of Birdman and Chris Bosh to contain him.
Brooklyn closed the opening quarter behind by just one point but the second quarter featured much less offense from both teams, evidenced by LeBron managing just two points before halftime. With the Heat cooling off, the Nets continued to limit the Heat's offensive game plan with the kind of defense seen in their regular season series. Brooklyn's bench aided the cause, with Mirza Teletovic unstoppable from beyond the arc to push the Nets ahead as well as Alan Anderson knocking down a pair of triples and also getting involved in a minor scuffle with Ray Allen and Birdman.
Things got even worse in the third quarter, with the Heat managing just 14 points and failing to adjust to the opponent's game plan - the opposite of what happened in the first two games of the series. LeBron may have finished the game with an impressive 28 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists but it was a hollow stat line as none of it actually helped his team mount any sort of meaningful comeback when the game was lost during the course of the third quarter.
Instead of delivering a knockout punch to push the series to an unsurmountable 3-0 series lead, the Heat simply allowed the Nets to keep knocking down shot after shot to pad their lead. Dwyane Wade was second on the team with 20 points, but much like LeBron, it was largely of little consequence to Brooklyn. Norris Cole, Birdman, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier and Rashard Lewis combined for just 12 total points.
The Heat's first loss of the postseason can still be redeemed with a road victory on Monday to take the series back to Miami with a commanding 3-1 lead. Let's not forget the Heat have never lost a playoff series after a 2-0 lead, and neither has LeBron in his career.