The Brooklyn Nets jostled their wins and losses at the end of the season to position themselves in the Miami Heat's side of the bracket, and Game 1 offered another reunion of LeBron James, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in the playoffs.
And what we learned tonight: Rest is better than rhythm. Oh, and apparently the Nets 4-0 record vs Miami this season is out the window.
The Heat controlled most of the first half and blew the game open in the third quarter, outscoring the Nets by 10 in the quarter, and essentially benching their stars for the fourth quarter. Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams didn't play in the final frame as Miami put the game away winning 107-86.
For the Heat, Erik Spoelstra looked like he knew exactly what he was doing, saving the 35 year old Shane Battier for this series. Battier played only 2 minutes in the entire first round series against the Charlotte Bobcats, but replaced Udonis Haslem in the starting line-up in Game 1, in fact Haslem didn't even play until the final two minutes. And Battier was effective. He was all over Joe Johnson and at times Paul Pierce. Battier played 26 minutes and had 8 points, stretching the floor and matching the Nets small ball.
Of course the Heat were led by LeBron James who had 22 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. His jump shot was on, and he stretched the defense with his mid-post presence. LeBron helped hold Pierce to only 8 points. In fact, Ray Allen outscored both Pierce and Garnett 19 to 8, as Garnett went scoreless (first in his playoff career) and Allen connected from deep four times.
The Heat dominated the Nets in the paint, routinely getting to the rim. Miami scored 52 points in the paint to Brooklyn's 28. That was a huge part of the success for the Heat as they got some more shots at point blank range. The Heat had 22 assists on 42 field goals and shot 57% from the field, their highest FG% since March 1. Miami also out-rebounded the Nets by 5.
Chris Bosh came up big with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Dwyane Wade had 14 points and 5 assists as well. Mario Chalmers also had 12 points for Miami. Brooklyn was led by 17 a piece from Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. Deron Williams hit a three pointer to end the 2nd and 3rd quarters. Marcus Thornton, a known Heat-killer, had 11 points off the bench.
Miami did exactly what they were supposed to do, win at home, even though that's been difficult for the other teams in the post season so far. Miami is still undefeated in the playoffs so far. One downfall for the Heat in Game 1 is that Chris Andersen went to the locker room with what was said a right knee contusion and didn't return. His status is unclear.
The Nets showed in the first half why they will be a problem for the Heat, as they controlled the pace and limited the Heat in transition. But in the second half, Miami showed why they are back-to-back champions, as they showed another level defensively and offensively. If the Heat shoot at that clip and turn up the defensive for stretches, they are so hard to beat.
The game lacked one thing: no fights, scuffles, etc. But hey...it's only Game 1, that stuff will come soon enough.
Game 2 is in Miami on Thursday night, 7:00pm on TNT.