MIAMI — Things couldn’t have gone better for the Miami Heat so far through the NBA playoffs.
Six games played, six wins.
Besides that, six of the other seven remaining playoff teams endured long first-round series, and only San Antonio won its first two second-round games.
But the challenge to a three-peat increases on Saturday night, when the Heat play at Brooklyn in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
After sweeping overmatched Charlotte in the first round, Miami did what it was supposed to do in winning the first two games at home against the Nets to take a 2-0 series lead.
”Game 3 is our next step in trying to get better,” LeBron James said after Miami’s 94-82 Game 2 victory on Thursday night.
”We’re focused on not turning the ball over offensively and execute defensively by putting pressure on their guys. If we do those things, we give ourselves a great chance to win.”
The Nets won all four regular-season meetings — three by a point each, the other in double overtime — but lost the series’ first two games by a combined 33 points.
After winning Game 1 easily, the Heat used a balanced scoring attack and tough fourth-quarter defense to capture Game 2. Brooklyn was within two points with a little more than six minutes remaining before Miami raised its game by hitting three 3-pointers, attacking the boards and contesting shots.
”We knew it was going to be a grind,” said Dwyane Wade, who scored 14 points. ”But we had to change things around that were going on in the game. We felt they were beating us to the 50-50 balls — the loose balls, the offensive rebounds.
”In the fourth quarter, we had to turn it around if we wanted to win.”
The series now trades AmericanAirlines Arena for the Barclays Center, where Miami’s keys to victory will be fairly straightforward.
”Not having a slow start and closing out quarters well,” said Ray Allen, who had 13 points and eight rebounds in Game 2. ”When their guys come in off the bench, we have to be alert.
”(Mirza) Teletovic came in and he really kept them going and we have to be very alert to that as we get up there because they’re going to have even more momentum being in their own building.”
Teletovic hit six of nine 3-point shots and led Brooklyn with 20 points. Nets stars Deron Williams and Kevin Garnett, however, struggled. Williams did not score and missed all nine of his shots. Garnett had four points but seemed very uncomfortable when he had the ball.
Brooklyn is counting on home support to help it cash in twice at Barclays. A split probably wouldn’t be good enough for the Nets to win the series.
”Unlike Game 1, Game 2 we played with a lot more grit, made it tough on them,” Nets forward Paul Pierce said. ”The only thing we go to do right now is try to get two at home.”
”We gotta go home and take care of home court,” Brooklyn forward Joe Johnson said. ”We gotta stay confident, keep talking to one another. Stay positive and keep having each other’s back. This series is far from over.”