The Miami Heat beat the Nets 95-83 on Monday night at Barclays Center, in a game that was far more lopsided than the final score.
From the second quarter on, Miami was in full control of this game, even if the score did not reflect it. They made the Nets, particularly Mirza Teletovic and Bojan Bogdanovic, look silly on defense. Norris Cole and Shabazz Napier did a tremendous job at point guard and they ran the offense like a machine. The Heat did everything you could want except score the ball consistently.
The Nets had a 43-38 lead at halftime, but one constant in the parade of coaches in Brooklyn reared its ugly head once again, and that was a horrendous third quarter. The Heat outscored the Nets 32-21 in the third, led by Norris Cole’s 8 points. The Heat led 82-78 in the final minutes, and a Chris Bosh jumper with 3:15 left started a 9-2 run that was capped by a Bosh three that made it 91-80 with 1:23 left that sealed the win.
The Heat bottled up the Nets’ two biggest scorers, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez. Johnson had just 6 points on a miserable 2-for-9 from the field and 1-for-5 on threes, wit 4 rebounds and 1 assist.
Lopez had 5 points on 2-for-8 from the field with 1 rebound and 2 assists in 21 minutes. He sat for nearly the entire fourth quarter, entering with 1:58 left for Garnett. It is now becoming common for Lopez to sit for the fourth, and this started a week ago Sunday against the Magic.
Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins was very agitated when he was asked about Lopez after the game, sternly replying, “I don’t want to talk about Brook right now. I don’t want to talk about any individuals. I want to talk about the game and our effort. I hear what you’re asking, I just don’t want to go there right now. It’s not a good time for me.”
That was the start of Hollins’ postgame rant, as he questioned the Nets’ identity, saying they have one, but that he doesn’t like it. The implication is that he wants a tough team and that the identity of the Nets, as it has been for their time in Brooklyn, is that they’re soft, epitomized by Lopez.
Lopez said of being benched in the fourth quarter, “You have to stay positive. I am all for the team, I always have been, so if that’s the way it is going to go, and that is the best look, so be it. I am going to be out there cheering on my guys and supporting them.”
The Nets have lost four in a row and are 4-6 on the season, and Lopez said of that, “Yes. It has been rough but we just have to stick together. Get a good day of work in tomorrow. We can finally practice and get a lot of good work in and just keep going at it. We have been doing a lot of good things, we haven’t been sustaining the entire game, but we are going in the right direction. We will be good; we have a lot of good workers. We have to get in the gym and work until we figure it out.”
Hollins spoke along the same lines as Lopez about playing an ‘entire game,’ saying, “It’s disappointing when you’re at home and you don’t play with good energy for 48 minutes. You know, you don’t scrap for 48 minutes. It’s disappointing no matter where you do it. It’s disappointing on the road when we don’t do it for 48 minutes, but there’s no reason when we come home.”
Hollins said to the question of if he sees any improvements on the court, “No. We have to rebound better. We were weak there. We needed to out-rebound this team. They out-rebounded us 41-35. We gave up 10 offensive rebounds. They’re guarding our men off the dribble. All of those things have to get better.”
On his message to the team after four straight losses, Hollins said, “Keep fighting. That’s life. Stuff goes bad in life, and you have to come out and you have to keep scratching and clawing. The one other thing to do is lay down and die, or you can stand up and fight. I’d rather fight.”
On if he is concerned about how his team has been playing, Hollins said, “It’s been a concern since the beginning. It’s always been a concern. I have to be patient myself, and we got to keep growing and growing and growing. You know, for me, I want it to be done right and right away, but I’m also smart enough to understand – been around long enough to understand – that it takes time.”
Miami won this game without Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng. In their place, Miami got big performances from Mario Chalmers, who had 22 points on 5-for-12 from the field, 1-5 on threes, 11-13 on free throws, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds; rookie James Ennis, who had 10 points (4-7 FG. 0-2 on threes) and 8 rebounds in 36 minutes; rookie Shabazz Napier with 11 points (4-8 FG, 3-6 on threes), 3 assists, and 3 rebounds in 18 minutes; and Udonis Haslem with 6 points and 6 rebounds in 15 minutes.
Hollins said of that, “As I tell you guys (media) all the time, NBA players get paid to play. There’s a lot of guys sitting on benches waiting for an opportunity. That kid (James) Ennis is waiting for an opportunity to play. (Mario) Chalmers is waiting for an opportunity to play. With Dwyane Wade being out, he stepped up and he played well. (Udonis) Haslem hasn’t played that much, and all of a sudden he gets a chance to play. It’s the NBA, I don’t even look at that. You guys make a big thing out of it. You still have to go out there and play. It’s not like there are people who shouldn’t be in the NBA that are stepping in and playing that you can just walk all over them.”
Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra said of the win, “We wanted to come out with more passion, and we wanted to be connected. And through that connection, you’d see it in the communication on the court. Good or bad, we wanted to be connected, and that was encouraging to see. It was our loudest game in terms of on the court, in the huddles, pre-game, halftime. That’s a good step, but we want to keep on building. We showed some resolve to bounce back, just compartmentalize and try to get better. From the film session and the walk-through today, it was good to see the results tonight. It looked like a handful of times Brooklyn was open for the three, but we ran them off of those looks, got them into another possession, another situation and finished it off with some better rebounding than we did in the first half. I tried to get guys in and out of the lineup to keep them fresh and try to keep some of our starters out there throughout most of the time during the game.”