Puzzling sweep by Nets not stressing out Heat too much
MIAMI — Any four-game series sweep of a two-time defending NBA champion would be newsworthy.
Deciphering this one, though, is a bit tricky.
The Miami Heat lost to the Brooklyn Nets for the fourth time this season thanks to an 88-87 decision at AmericanAirlines Arena on Tuesday night.
That made it three one-point Nets victories, and another in double overtime, this season.
That’s four Miami losses by a total of 12 points.
And that’s omitting two other Brooklyn wins during the preseason.
If the two teams meet during the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Nets understandably would like their chances of beating the Heat.
Of course, Miami played without Dwyane Wade (hamstring), Greg Oden (back) and Udonis Haslem (stomach virus) in the final meeting. The Nets were without center Kevin Garnett, who although doesn’t play as many minutes as in his prime, still displays a presence when on the court.
"I’m sure they’re confident beating us four times," said Heat backup point Norris Cole, who scored 10 points and created several other opportunities for teammates by driving the lane.
"The playoffs are a totally different mindset, totally different atmosphere, totally different situation. Players who may not be playing right now are going to be playing. It’ll be different."
Not only were all four regular-season games between the two teams hotly contested, the latest battle ended with James’ dunk attempt being blocked by Brooklyn rookie Mason Plumlee with two seconds left.
"It was a foul — that’s my thought," said James, who finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. "I should have been going to the line for two.
"I saw it twice. I didn’t need to watch it. He grabbed my right hand. He didn’t do it on purpose, but he got my right hand. The ball went off the rim and went back. If you get all ball, the ball’s going to go straight down."
A look at the video by a group of media members resulted in some claiming Plumlee clearly fouled James and others insisting it was a clear block because a defender is allowed to touch the hand if initial contact was with the ball.
A player the caliber of King James, however, often gets such calls in his favor.
"My initial thought was to just foul and make him earn it from the free-throw line," Plumlee said. "I got a piece of the ball and it was even better."
James had received a pass from Rashard Lewis, who had driven the baseline before dishing back to No. 6.
"They were close games. Games where the ball just hadn’t bounced our way against them," Lewis said. "We can’t dwell on it too long, we got to get ready to play a tough team in Memphis tomorrow which is going to be another tough battle for us.
"The main focus is just winning ballgames, trying to hold that first-place spot in the Eastern Conference."
The Nets loss meant the Heat (53-24) held a half-game lead over idle Indiana (53-25) in the race for the conference top seed. The Pacers will visit Miami on Friday night.
Before that game, Miami will play at Memphis on Wednesday night. The Grizzlies remain in a fight for the final Western Conference playoff spot.
Before heading to the airport, the Heat still had Brooklyn on the their minds.
"They’ve all been close," center Chris Bosh said. "We’ve made some costly mistakes down the stretch."
"For whatever reason, they’ve made more plays and they’ve made the final plays going down the stretch," coach Erik Spoelstra said.
While a Heat-Nets playoff series might be appealing to many fans and media, Miami’s players sounded more apathetic than concerned about the prospects.
"We understood the competition we were going against," James said. "It’s been a close game all four games. They’ve been able to pull them out."