After a week of resting their legs and watching the playoffs on TV, the defending back-to-back NBA champions rejoined the fray on Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, but, like the Heat’s entire first-round series, this opening game of Round 2 didn’t offer much drama — just another blowout.
After sweeping the Bobcats to begin the playoffs, the Heat ran through the Brooklyn Nets, 107-86, to take a 1-0 lead in its best-of-7, second-round playoff series. The Bobcats felt like a tune-up at the time, but Charlotte gave the Heat more trouble in Game 1 than the high-dollar Nets, who were put together at great cost to compete against the Heat in a postseason series.
So far, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s big investment isn’t paying off. He spent $180 million on his roster this season and that team finished the game on Tuesday against the Heat’s garbage-time roster.
On the day he was unseated as the league’s back-to-back MVP, LeBron James led a balanced attack for the Heat and finished with 22 points, going 10 of 15 from the field. He had five rebounds and three assists in 37 minutes of work and checked out to a standing ovation with 2:13 left. Of course, most of the fans at AmericanAirlines were standing at that point only to walk out of the arena and beat traffic home.
There was a legitimate concern in the Heat’s locker room before the series that the week off would disrupt the team’s rhythm. Those worries were put to rest early.
“To have eight days off from playing a game, I feared the rhythm,” James said. “But I don’t have to fear it after (Tuesday night).”
Dwyane Wade had 14 points, and Chris Bosh finished with 15 points. Ray Allen had 19 points off the bench against his old Boston teammates. He was 4 of 7 from three-point range. The Heat shot 56.8 percent from the field and outscored the Nets 52-28 in the paint.
“We knew we couldn’t slack around,” said Bosh, who had 11 rebounds. “We had to really give our whole attention to this series and make sure that we’re really executing our game plan.”
Another key: the Heat only committed 10 turnovers after averaging 15 turnovers against the Nets during the regular season.
“When we don’t turn the ball over and we get shots, we give ourselves a great chance to win every game,” said Heat reserve point guard Norris Cole, who had six points, including a quick-strike three-pointer to begin the second quarter. “We had a concentrated effort on taking care of the ball and making sure we executed, and that’s the way every game in the playoffs should be.”
Joe Johnson and Deron Williams led the Nets with 17 points each, but Brooklyn didn’t get much offense from its former Celtics stars. Paul Pierce had eight points and Kevin Garnett failed to score in a playoff game for the first time in his career. Marcus Thornton chipped in 11 points off the bench for Brooklyn.
Brooklyn was 4-0 against the Heat during the season, but the Heat’s players shrugged off that record time and again in the many days leading up to this series. Turns out the players were right.
“The regular season doesn’t even matter,” Wade said. “We just came out with a game plan. On the offensive end everyone was involved, we moved the ball and we made shots.”
A steal and driving layup by Wade put the Heat ahead 81-66 with 10:15 left in the fourth quarter. Allen then made a pair of three-pointers in short succession to blow the game open.
Spoelstra’s move to start Shane Battier in place of Udonis Haslem turned out to be the right one. A three-pointer by Battier gave the Heat a 55-49 lead in the third quarter, and Bosh followed up with a three-pointer of his own with 7:06 remaining in the period to put the Heat ahead by seven points. From there, the Heat began to distance itself.
Back-to-back layups by James put the Heat ahead by 14 points, and James pounded his chest as he walked off the court following a timeout.
“The biggest thing was our attention to detail,” Wade said. “Defensively we held them to a couple 20-point quarters, and that’s what we try to do.”
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