Either the Miami Heat are still on vacation, or rumors about BK closing the gap in the NBA’s Eastern Conference isn’t just the NY hype-machine flexing. On Friday night, the “new” Brooklyn Nets put LBJ & Co. in a city sidewalk, cobra clutch. BK outscored Miami 24-8 in the first eight minutes of the second half to take a 71-55 lead, en route to a slim 101-100 win.
The loss drops the Heat’s record to 1-2. It’s just the second time Miami has been under .500 since The Big Three cliqued-up in 2010. The only other time was when they were 0-1 in 2010-11 after losing the first NBA game they ever played together.
Champion-tested Miami doesn’t stress losses when the season isn’t even 10 games deep, and veteran squads tend to need some oil in those engines before taking off, so Pat Riley isn’t working the phone lines in a panic just yet.
For The Big Three it’s all about pacing. The next 79 games will still just be a warm up for the playoffs, where Miami will make an epic attempt to balance age and the prospects of immortality. Miami is zoned in on a rare three-peat, which would officially gangster-stamp them as a Dynasty.
Brooklyn, on the other hand, needed that win like Andrew Bynum needs new knees. With so much invested in this season for Mikhail Prokhorov and his brash dash towards greatness, the Nets needed an early signature win. They got it. There isn’t a marketing firm in the world that could have done a better job than that win to further entrench the swift-rising contingent of BK fans flooding the Barclays. The celebrity bandwagon is also in full force with cats you used to see at MSG like Chris Rock, now posted up downtown.
Brooklyn Nets fans now have something to hang their highly optimistic hats on. This game in November won’t equal a copper penny in June, but any victory over the two-time defending champs lends credence to point guard Deron Williams’ confidence entering the game.
The Nets had embarrassingly dropped their last 13 encounters with the Heat, losing the three meetings last season by an average of 21 points.
"I don't know if we felt we were a better team than the Heat last year," Williams said during a sit-down with first-year Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd for ESPN's "Sports Center" conversation. "And so I think in order for us to be able to beat them this year, we have to feel like we are a better team and we can beat them. And I think we do."
BK executed what new coach Jason Kidd (who missed the game serving a two-game suspension for an offseason DWI) expects to be a winning formula; a big frontline, depth and Paul Pierce with the ball in his hands and a chance to ice the game.
Miami came storming back to cut the Nets lead to 96-94 with 18 second left on a Mario Chalmers rainbow three, Pierce’s two free throws put Brooklyn up 99-95 with seven seconds left and pretty much dusted Miami’s late rally. Pierce is the type of closer who can rival LBJ in 4th-quarter slaughters, and few teams are blessed with that ammo. Pierce is like an old, mangy dog that you just can’t put down.
After the crafty vet drilled his first pair of clutch charity stripers with Brooklyn, he typically returned to the sidelines with that familiar scowl and cocky bop that he's displayed throughout his rambunctious 16-year career.
Pierce and Joe Johnson each scored 19 points for the Nets. Johnson, who the Nets hope can go through an entire campaign without lapsing into the walking dead, hit two 3 pointers in the final four minutes.
This game could do two things. Wake up the Beasts of the East and inspire a 15-game Miami winning streak. Or it can be a minor step towards chipping away at Miami’s aura of invincibility. For BK, it’s an encouraging affirmation that having HOFers Pierce and Kevin Garnett available to lead by example and carry the burden of navigating through late-game jumpers, jitters and last second drives, makes them—if not the best squad—then a fearless squad. That’s half the battle when you roll with the wicked intentions of dethroning The King.