Have you ever watched Jack Johnson box? If not, take a few minutes to watch the video above. The man graced the ring with such power, force, and dominance. He was virtually unbeatable. It’s not a shot in the dark to compare him to the Miami Heat of today’s NBA — so vicious yet so hated. Johnson faced wrath merely because of his race. LeBron James and the Heat are loathed because of The Decision.
In some ways, the Heat’s win over the Nets yesterday was emblematic of Johnson’s fights. While Johnson was markedly better than basically anyone he ever faced in the ring, he had a habit of toying with his opponents: taunting them, egging them on, making them feel like they had a chance to win. Well, the Heat embraced that school of thought on Sunday.
That the Heat would emerge victorious from this game was essentially an afterthought, and they proved that in the early going. James was a man among boys on the offensive end, beating Sasha Vujacic about six different ways for his first six field goals. In fact, he, Dwyane Wade, and Erick Dampier started the game 12-of-12 from the field. Meanwhile, the Nets couldn’t get even a trace of offense going. Alas, by the end of the first quarter, the Heat were up 34-18, and it was looking like an old-fashioned blowout. The Heat shot about 70 percent in the period (I’m rounding here) and the Nets fired about 30 percent.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on where you stand on the Nets re glass-half-full or glass-half-empty at this point in the season), the Heat weren’t content with just winning by a country mile. Maybe James, Wade, and Chris Bosh actually wanted to play in the second half, so they kept the margin out of hilarious territory. And the Nets started to “fight back.” In fact, they outscored the Heat 51-45 in the second and third quarters.
It helped that Wade missed a large chunk of the first half with a leg injury, and it didn’t hurt that Travis Outlaw (17 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals, 6-of-12 shooting) took his blindfold off to play this game. That said, probably my favorite part of this game was watching Mario West play. And I really doubt that those words have ever been said before in that sequence.
No, he’s not going to give you any offense or rebounding. But, as John Hollinger put it on Twitter:
“Nice to see former Hawk Mario West getting some run w/ Nets. No skill at all, but nobody in lg. plays harder.”
And Hollinger even sells him a little short if this game was any barometer. West proved to be the only Net capable of inhibiting LeBron at all, hounding him on the ball and keeping him from exploding on offense. West is no long-term fixture of the team, but it’s nice to see someone display some interest in defense for a team that hasn’t shown up on that side of the ball since November.
Speaking of which, the Brandan Wright experiment encountered yet another road block Sunday. He got the start with Kris Humphries out, but that didn’t last long. Just three minutes into the game, Avery Johnson was so fumed as his lack of defensive effort that he pulled him for the remainder of the evening. I understand wanting players on the court who care about defense, but NO ONE on the Nets cared about defense in this game. Is it really fair to pick on Wright for maintaining the status quo, however terrible it is?
Oh, well. This was a bad game for the Nets at a point in the season when the games rarely matter at all. There’s nothing to get terribly upset at. Hey, at least those who watched the game got to see this doozy: