Everything the Nets did tonight was overshadowed by LeBron James, who dominated with 25 first-half points on 9-13 shooting, and then dominated the second half with... 24 points on 8-11 shooting. Pretty good.
After a technical foul in a scuffle with (who else) Alan Anderson, James dominated the game by getting into the lane for dunks and layups, and hitting shots effortlessly over Nets defenders. Double-teams nor single-coverage made a difference.
With their backs against the wall, the Nets decided on the curious strategy to isolate Joe Johnson on LeBron James, one foul from expulsion, on two possessions. Both ended in missed jumpers, and crisp ball movement on a late Miami possession ended in an open corner 3 for Chris Bosh, who buried his second three of the game to put the Heat up 97-94 -- and for good.
The Nets now have their biggest uphill battle of the season, down 3-1 to the defending champs heading back to Miami. Hell of an effort tonight, but it wasn't enough.
32 mins, 5-14 FG%, 2-2 FT%, 13 PTS, 7 ASTS, 6 RBS, 0 STLS, 0 BLKS, 1 TO
The good: Looked quicker than ever, set up his teammates well, fought on defense, grabbed a surprising number of rebounds, limited his own turnovers.
Bad: struggled to hit open shots and even a reverse layup late in the fourth quarter.
Not the performance you want from Deron Williams.
34 mins, 4-9 FG%, 5-7 FT%, 13 PTS, 4 ASTS, 2 RBS, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 4 TOS
Committed some silly shooting fouls and bad turnovers. Did like his aggressiveness going towards the basket and the game didn't fall apart with Williams off the floor. But couldn't handle Dwyane Wade.
36 mins, 5-15 FG%, 6-6 FT%, 18 PTS, 2 ASTS, 3 RBS, 0 STLS, 0 BLKS, 2 TOS
Joe Johnson has many forms. Spot-up Sniper Joe? The best. Curling Joe? Great sport. Passing-Out-Of-Double-Team Joe? Lovely. Iso-Joe on LeBron James -- even with five fouls -- in crunch time? Not so much.
31 mins, 6-11 FG%, 4-5 FT%, 16 PTS, 2 ASTS, 7 RBS, 2 STLS, 0 BLKS, 1 TO
Say what you want about this as a team game: the fourth quarter was the Paul Pierce show. Got into the lane for one dunk on Chris Andersen (AKA The Birdman That Isn't Ian Eagle), took some bizarre three-point attempts, blew past former teammate Ray Allen for another layup, egged on the crowd, and hit one ridiculous flailing three-point play.
That said, I know Paul Pierce really wanted to guard LeBron James and all, but, uh, maybe try some other things when the guy hits 25, or 30, or 40.
25 mins, 3-5 FG%, 2-2 FT%, 8 PTS, 2 ASTS, 7 RBS, 1 STL, 0 BLKS, 1 TO
Sometimes he looks like Kevin Garnett no longer exists, that there's merely a decrepit shell in the paint that can occasionally grab rebounds and yell at people. And then sometimes he does this.
Gave everything he had. That's always evident. But wasn't enough.
22 mins, 4-10 FG%, 0-0 FT%, 8 PTS, 0 ASTS, 8 RBS, 0 STLS, 0 BLKS, 0 TOS
For most of the regular season, Andray Blatche elicited a grade from me that felt like I wrote it on drugs, because he'd do the weirdest things with varying effectiveness and put the very nature of basketball through hellfire. But in these playoffs, we've seen a surprisingly subdued Blatche: he's staying in the paint, fighting for rebounds, getting good shots on offense, and has even played a few possessions of solid defense.
He's still Blatching -- there is no way to void Blatche of Blatche entirely. But it's been a new kind of Blatche here in the playoffs. Mostly for the better.
15 mins, 2-3 FG%, 2-3 FT%, 6 PTS, 2 ASTS, 1 REB, 0 STLS, 0 BLKS, 0 TOS
I don't know if he's an effective matchup to guard LeBron James for stretches, because he's a bit skinny and LeBron James is a stone cyborg, but I thought he'd have a little more time to try. He's got such good vision, which helped him connect with Deron Williams and Andray Blatche on a couple of nifty plays.
26 mins, 3-5 FG%, 2-3 FT%, 10 PTS, 1 AST, 2 RBS, 0 STLS, 0 BLKS, 0 TOS
He really loves the scuffle. Didn't even take a full quarter to get into it with LeBron James, forcing a double-technical foul after a scrum for a dead ball. But that scuffle also sent LeBron into LeBron™ mode.
16 mins, 2-6 FG%, 0-0 FT%, 4 PTS, 2 ASTS, 4 RBS, 0 STLS, 0 BLKS, 0 TOS
Gave us no YouTubes to check.