It was our old friend Goran Dragic, who drew first blood against Miami tonight starting the Nets out on what would become a 7-3 run to start the game. Thankfully, Miami’s depth was productive to start with Max Strus, Bam Adebayo, and Yurt all doing work to tie the game up.
Kevin Durant shook off the rust in his return as he scored easily from mid and long-range. With Durant’s scoring and Goran conducting Brooklyn’s offense exceptionally well, Brooklyn’s lead quickly ballooned to 11.
With Miami struggling, it was Bam who’d anchor the offense as he drove aggressively and did work in the post. Still, even with Bam doing his best on one end Miami’s defense looked awful as it was unable to contain Durant, or really any Nets players. Brooklyn spent the rest of the quarter building on their lead with everybody from Patty Mills to Nic Claxton having their way with the Heat defense.
From airballs to sloppy passes, this was not the start Miami wanted shorthanded or not. Some flashes from Martin and Herro helped install some sense of hope, but Miami would still go into the second quarter down 12.
Miami struggled to rebound opening up many second-chance opportunities for the Nets, who continued to feast on Miami’s defense. The Heat couldn’t find an open look on offense, electing to go to forced shots by Haywood Highsmith which probably isn’t an ideal NBA offensive strategy.
It was Tyler Herro who took the reins in an effort to chip away at Brooklyn’s 13 point lead on some aggressive buckets. It’s easy to forget what an improvement he’s made this season, he’s been very impressive. Bam also continued to put up buckets, on some phenomenal looks bringing up his point total to 14.
Unfortunately for Miami, putting up points mean nothing if you can’t defend. And for a long while they couldn’t. Coach Spo eventually moved the Heat into a 2-3 zone where they started to find some success.
As the quarter started to wind down Miami finally found their legs, with Max Strus, Martin Herro, and Bam stripping the deficit to seven. It also helped that Brooklyn steadily racked up technical fouls. It wasn’t perfect, but Miami would go into the second half down only seven.
Durant picked up his third foul to start the third quarter, while the Heat managed to cut the deficit to just four off strong play from Caleb Martin. Bam also continued his fantastic play, absolutely zooming by Andre Drummond. Bam’s burst and acceleration ability really set him apart from other bigs.
Miami also picked it up on defense, racking up a few highlight-level blocks and converting them into points on the other end. With the Heat cutting the deficit to just two, they also unleashed the “Let’s go Heat” chants in Barclays.
A Caleb Martin drive gave the Heat its first lead of the game, and suddenly Miami seemed to have all the momentum. Caleb Martin has flourished in Miami and really steps up in games where Jimmy sits.
It’s worth noting Duncan’s play tonight, while he didn’t score much he was a fantastic facilitator (he had 7 assists) setting up players like Max Strus for nice looks.
Though he was showing signs of rust, Durant also found his groove again keeping things uncomfortably close.
Strus continued to shoot the lights out, and with Dedmon also getting on the board Miami was able to create an eight-point lead. It would shrink to four to end the quarter, but keep Miami in a good position heading into the fourth.
Bruce Brown was the one chipping at Miami’s lead to start the fourth. But Dedmon and Herro stepped up to keep Miami ahead.
Both teams would go back and forth with Dragic and Herro scoring nice buckets. Miami has struggled in clutch situations this season, but Herro has proven he can make the right decisions under pressure and tonight he really did his best to put Miami in a winning position. He also had a highlight alley-oop to Bam that was otherworldly.
Miami got lucky on a couple of possessions, but late-game turnovers remained an issue for the Heat.
Caleb Martin hit a crucial jumper with just over 5 minutes remaining and Miami would ride that out to a 10 point lead. But with 4:44 left Bam would pick up his fifth foul, leaving Miami in a very vulnerable position. Luckily Caleb Martin would hit another huge three-to-bide time for Bam to return.
Bruce Brown cut the lead to four, shifting momentum back to Brooklyn at the worst possible time as Miami’s offense started to stall. Durant would go on to hit free throws and cut the lead to two. Miami blew multiple possessions with just over a minute left, but a missed Durant three gave Miami an opportunity to extend the lead. And they did! With Bam scoring a crucial bunny over Goran Dragic. With 23 seconds left, the Nets sent Herro to the line where he’d put the game away in a hard-fought, well-earned win.