It wasn’t easy in the end, but the Brooklyn Nets held on to defeat the defending champion Miami Heat 101-100 in their home debut. The Nets led by as many as 16 in the second half and 13 in the fourth quarter, but Lebron James had some pretty magical moments down the stretch to keep Miami in the game and nearly win it. Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson each had 19 points and their share of clutch shots and free throws to lead the Nets. Lebron James didn’t appear to have a good game at all, but still finished with 26 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists, showing why he is the best player on the planet.
The Nets got off to a great start in this game, pushing the ball on offense and not allowing Miami to trap them. Defensively, they also held Miami to only 33% shooting in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Brooklyn allowed Miami to get back into the game and it was tied at halftime. The Nets have had plenty of horrible third quarters last season, but that was not the case tonight. The Nets outscored the Heat 31-20 in the quarter and at one point were leading the quarter 24-8. Paul Pierce had a great third. In the fourth, the Nets still had a comfortable lead for most of the quarter, but Miami, thanks to a couple of 3′s by Mario Chalmers and Lebron James in the final 30 seconds, cut Brooklyn’s lead to just one. The thing that killed Miami was the fact that they were out of timeouts. This forced them to inbound the ball from under the Nets’ basket with 3 seconds left and they were never able to get off a shot.
This was a statement win for the Nets, there’s no doubt about that. Even though it would have been nice to run away with this game, it is hard to do that when Miami is hitting so many tough shots. The Nets looked great on offense all night with the exception being the second quarter and they guarded Lebron James as well as anybody in the league can. Of course, they still have some kinks to work out: too many turnovers and poor free throw shooting, but for a team who has only played together for 2 games now to beat a team that hasn’t changed for 3 years is still pretty impressive.
Player grades and notes:
Kevin Garnett: B
Garnett had very little impact scoring-wise but that is not his job. He led the Nets with 7 rebounds and also had a good share of hustle plays. In the third quarter, he dove into the stands to try to save a ball, showing the effort it takes to win in the NBA, even if you have as much talent as he does. He also had an especially important role because Brook Lopez was in foul trouble for most of the second half.
Paul Pierce: A
This was a vintage Pierce game. He had 19 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds, and was a perfect 8-8 from the foul line. He made clutch shots in the fourth quarter and found his teammates with superb passes throughout the game. He also played fantastic defense on Lebron James, blocking him once on a drive and forcing him to commit 5 turnovers. Paul already looks great in black and white.
Brook Lopez: C+
This really wasn’t Lopez’s fault. He got into foul trouble quickly in the third quarter, picking up his 4th in the first 3 minutes of the quarter, and then quickly picked up a 5th early in the fourth. Still, Brook finished with 13 points and 6 rebounds in only 20 minutes and was effective when he was on the floor. I wouldn’t be too concerned about foul trouble for Lopez. It rarely is a problem for him even though it was tonight.
Deron Williams: B
Deron should be off his minutes restriction from now on. His stats weren’t eye-popping tonight, only 8 points and 8 assists, but his most important stat is one turnover. He hasn’t played much with the players on this team because of his injuries and is still getting adjusted. He did miss one big free throw in the final 30 seconds, but his teammates bailed him out by making their foul shots.
Joe Johnson: A
This was the perfect game for Joe Johnson. He scored the quietest 19 points of the night on only 8 shots-an anti-Carmelo Anthony type game. He knocked down a clutch 3 and made a pair of free throws in the final seconds to preserve the win. Joe barely touched the ball tonight but was still able to score 19 points. Very impressive.
Andray Blatche: B-
Blatche had a very weird game. He had a horrible first half: turnovers, bad shot selection, missed free throws, but then in the third quarter he was a big reason why the Nets’ lead ballooned to as many as 16 points. Interestingly, he was the first man off the bench tonight. However, that may change once Andrei Kirilenko’s minutes restriction goes away.
Andrei Kirilenko: A
It is clear that Kirilenko will have a vital role on this team if they hope to go places in the playoffs. In only 12 minutes, Kirilenko scored 8 points despite being just 4-8 from the foul line. There really isn’t a guy in the NBA fit to guard him. He is a great slasher towards the rim and with all the talent around him, people will find him open all season long. Hopefully his minute restriction is gone soon as well.
The Nets are back in action on Sunday night in Orlando. It will be Jason Kidd’s first regular season game as the head coach. FRWD will have full coverage of the game.