AP

AP

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- I knew who Mirza Teletovic was before it was cool.
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Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams

Nets starters Johnson, Williams, Pierce, and Garnett watch from the bench in the fourth quarter. (AP)

MIAMI, FL. -- Deron Williams had just banked in a prayer three-point attempt as the third-quarter buzzer sounded, cutting the Heat lead to 79-66 with 12 minutes left and giving the Nets a sliver of an opening.

But Nets coach Jason Kidd elected to sit his starters for most of the fourth quarter, playing Kevin Garnett for just 76 seconds and sitting Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Paul Pierce entirely.

Kidd said he wanted to see if the bench could get them into single digits. "I wanted to give those guys, the starters, a break," Kidd said at the podium just after the loss. "Give them some rest. When we went with that group, I thought that group could make some shots, but also get some stops and get it to where it’s under 10, and then go from there. But it never happened."

Kidd defended the decision Wednesday afternoon at the team's practice. "We all trust one another and that is what this team is all about," Kidd told reporters. "We are a team, it is not an individual. It is not just a head coach. Not just a 19-year player. We are the Brooklyn Nets, and that is what we stand for, trusting one another. When things are tough and things are good, we continue to rely on one another and that is what makes this a special group."

Players defended their coach for doing what he felt was right, though they all agreed they wanted to play. "We’d love to get back out there, But that was coach’s decision," Williams said after the game. "He probably just felt like 20 points is tough to overcome at that point in the game. But as a player you definitely want to be out there."

Garnett kept it sharp and concise when asked about returning to the game in the fourth for less than 90 seconds. "Kidd told me to sub for Mason. And then he subbed me out. Following directions, dog, following directions."

But fans didn't much like Kidd's strategy:


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AP

AP

Well, that was underwhelming.

After a tense, gritty Game 7 victory against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, the Brooklyn Nets flew to Miami to finally begin the series in the making since last June. Despite solid performances from Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, Brooklyn looked completely outmatched and unwilling to compete with the 2-time defending champions.

1) How did the Nets drop this one?

Justin DeFeo: The Nets did little to win this game; shot poorly, defended poorly, lacked energy, etc. etc. Basically any bad characteristic you can show on a basketball court the Nets showed it tonight.

Ben Nadeau: In a variety of ways. They were outworked in every facet of the game. I try to stay away from cliches, but Miami just unequivocally wanted this game more. For a team that couldn't stop talking about how badly they wanted the Heat in the playoffs, they sure didn't play like it.

2) What surprised you in this game?

Justin DeFeo: Seeing Williams, Johnson, Garnett and Pierce glued to the bench for the 4th quarter. I don't disagree with the decision from Kidd, but certainly surprising to see this game wrapped up after 36 minutes.

Ben Nadeau: I was surprised that Kidd bailed on this game so early. Garnett had his first ever scoreless playoff game and the Nets' best bench player was Marcus Thornton's 11 points during garbage time. Presumably, Kidd was trying to give the starters some extra rest, but he gave up on the game earlier than expected. You can't just give wins to Miami.

But what surprised me the most? Just how uncomfortable the Nets looked playing basketball and how unwilling they were to challenge Miami at the rim, setting for jumper after jumper. If there's a blueprint towards losing to the Heat in four, that's it.

3) How can they come back in Game 2?

Justin DeFeo: Protecting the paint and taking care of the ball will at least keep the Nets competitive.

Ben Nadeau: As I wrote in the series preview, the X-Factor would be the Nets' bench. Unlike Game 7, the bench laid a total egg. And, as a result, Brooklyn got blown out. With players like Chris Anderson and Shane Battier making huge contributions off the bench for Miami, this series could be over in four unless Andray Blatche and Mirza Teletovic bring it in the next few games.

Joe Johnson can't do it all.

The Nets will be back on the court for Game 2 on Thursday night at 7 P.M.

 

The Heat are in red, dominating.

mo chart game 1 heat

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LeBron James

The Heat & the Nets go for at least four more games. (AP)

The New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets do not have an illustrious history against the Miami Heat. In the NBA regular season, the 26-year-old Heat hold a 59-45 edge over the itinerant Nets franchise. The disparity is even more pronounced in the playoffs, with the Nets winning a solitary game in two playoff series against the Shaquille O'Neal/Dwyane Wade-led Heat in 2005 and 2006. In the first three years of the Heat's Big Three era, the mid-move Nets went a big 0-for-9 against Miami in the regular season.

But that was before Truthball came to the boroughs. Led by Lebron-nemesis Paul Pierce, the new-look elderly Nets swept the defending back-to-back champions in all four 2013-14 regular season matchups. Four wins won't come so easily against the Heat in the playoffs, so let's recap the good times from the regular season while we still can.

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Nets Raptors Basketball

The Nets and Raptors start their playoff series Saturday in Toronto. (AP)

 

What had happened was: The Nets cast aside their usual uniforms and instead collectively donned a massive white flag in the final game of the regular season, which they lost 114-85 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The game mercifully brought to an end a streak of uninspired, boring basketball the Nets largely played over the final two weeks.

The Nets made rest their first priority, as Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Shaun Livingston, Kevin Garnett, Alan Anderson, and Mirza Teletovic sat this one out. Instead, the Nets fielded a vaunted five of Jorge Gutierrez, Marquis Teague, Marcus Thornton, Andray Blatche, and Jason Collins. Andrei Kirilenko and Mason Plumlee made appearances of the bench, which was weird, because I wasn’t used to seeing NBA players on the court when they got in the game.

That was: A chore. No one wanted to watch the Nets’ collection of also-rans come out and skirmish with a non-playoff game when the team clearly didn’t give a damn, and this was in many senses not even an NBA game.

Where they stand: After a few days of jockeying, the dust has settled. The Nets will take the No. 6 seed and play the Toronto Raptors, who beat the New York Knicks Wednesday to cement their spot in the No. 3 seed, in the first round of the playoffs. Game 1 will take place at the Air Canada Centre Saturday on ESPN. Time TBD. With the loss, the Nets locked a spot in Miami’s half of the Eastern Conference bracket, which means Brooklyn will play No. 2 Miami in the second round if the Nets advance and Miami takes care of business against No. 7 Charlotte.

This came amid much dismay that the Nets would have to play the Chicago Bulls in the first round once again. The No. 4 Bulls will instead play the No. 5 Washington Wizards.

The stats: Well, they weren’t great. Marcus Thornton led the Nets with 20 points on 6-of-19 shooting — and shoot he did. The cuffs were off for Thornton, who is not shy about shooting in the first place. This was an exhibition in gunning.

Andray Blatche posted 20 points (8-of-18 shooting) and 12 rebounds and featured his usual collection of moves and hilarity. Andrei Kirilenko MADE A PAIR OF FREE THROWS and I don’t care about anything else he did.

Jason Collins was set free to fire, logging eight points on eight shots. The lumbering big man played 39 minutes, and you have to figure he’ll never play that many in an NBA game again.

Shot Chart Rorschach Test: A Christmas-themed square donut.
donut

Is Marquis Teague in the D-League yet? That’s a nope.

Game Grades: Read 'em here.

Was this wise? Maybe. Williams needed the rest. If Johnson needed it, he never would have told you so. Pierce has his shoulder thingy, and Garnett sweats a new ocean after each two-minute stint. There were reasons not to care, but there were also reasons to try and avoid Miami in the second round and stay in rhythm.

Also, I take a little more seriously Jason Kidd’s assertion that Garnett’s minutes load won’t increase in the playoffs given that he had absolutely no chance to increase it incrementally during the regular season. The Nets can probably only count on him for 22 minutes a game in the postseason.

WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?

Shaun Livingston, not doin’ things: He didn’t play. That toe is really actin’ up.

Can you give me a comparison for the number of fast-break dunks the Nets gave up in the second half? Sure thing!

Across the river: The Knicks lost to the Toronto Raptors, putting to bed their miserable season and giving them 37 wins, matching the SCHOENE projection that Knicks fans were quick to call absurd before the season began.

Take that, Masai Ujiri.

Next up: The Nets start what they’ve been building toward since Jan. 1. Saturday they get to show that they really were built for the playoffs.

 

Jason Kidd (far) and Erik Spoelstra (near) go head-to-head tonight. (AP)

Jason Kidd (far) and Erik Spoelstra (near) go head-to-head tonight. (AP)

The Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat face off for the fourth and final time this season, with the Nets looking to pull off something remarkable: a sweep over the defending champions. Tonight looks a bit different than their first three matchups: For the Nets, center Kevin Garnett will sit out to rest on the first half of the back-to-back, while the Heat will be without guard Dwyane Wade.

The Nets are in the midst of a tough playoff race: as the fifth seed, they're 2.5 games back from the division and the fourth-seed Chicago Bulls, and 2.5 games ahead of the sixth-seeded Washington Wizards. With just six games to play, every win could inch them closer to an unlikely home-court advantage.

But how do the Nets match up with the defending champion Miami Heat? Let's take a look. Tipoff at 8 P.M. EST.

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LeBron James

King James leaves New York City without a victory. (AP)

Good morning, Nets fans and Heat haters. Thank you for your continued support of The Brooklyn Game. I hear Fearza shirts are lovely this time of year. Pick one up in The Brooklyn Game Store! Your support keeps us alive and keeps the legend of Fearza growing.

Here's everything you need to know about last night's Nets upset.
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Reggie Evans Joker Jersey

via Instagram

The Brooklyn Nets take on the Miami Heat for the second time this season at home tonight, after a 101-100 stunner. But more importantly, it marks the first "Nickname Game" in NBA history: both teams will wear jerseys with nicknames on the backs of their jerseys, rather than their standard last name. It's not the first time that NBA players have worn nicknames, but it's the first time the NBA has set up such a game.

So to preview tonight's game, we're going to judge the players the only way I know how: by doing a deep, comprehensive breakdown of each team's nicknames by position. I judged each nickname by overall creativity (did you just use your initials, make a pun, or go the extra mile?), lasting appeal (is it a classic nickname, and should it be?), and appearance (how cool will it look on a jersey?). Unfortunately due to injury, Deron Williams's "D-Will" and Brook Lopez's "Brooklyn" (Brooklyn on the front, Brooklyn on the back) were not considered.

The final judgments:
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Good morning, Nets fans. It's cold. The Nets are undefeated in 2014. Here's some info on tonight's game, plus some Nets news and notes from around the 'net:
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