NEW YORK (CBSMiami/AP) — So far, the Miami Heat have the advantage in the NBA Playoff race, but the Brooklyn Nets are looking to take some of the momentum away while on their home court.
They have hung high above the Barclays Center plaza this season, oversized pictures of the faces of the Brooklyn Nets’ biggest stars.READ MORE: COVID-19 Testing Sites In South Florida
On the court, those players are looking pretty small.
Deron Williams couldn’t score in the last game. Kevin Garnett has barely scored at all. And the Miami Heat keep proving that when it comes to constructing a super team, still nobody has done it better.
Up 2-0 even without needing huge efforts from LeBron James, the Heat try to push the Nets to the brink of elimination when the series shifts to Brooklyn on Saturday night.
“We did what we were supposed to do, protecting home court,” Miami’s Dwyane Wade. “Now it gets interesting. Now we’re trying to get one in their building. This is when the playoffs get fun.”
Miami tied a franchise record with its eighth straight playoff victory by pulling away to win 94-82 in Game 2 on Thursday night. The Nets felt better about their effort after getting blown out in the opener, but there was still plenty of cause for alarm.
Williams, the former All-Star who teammates insist is their most important player, shot 0 for 9 in the worst playoff game of his career. Garnett, who is 10 days shy of his 38th birthday, missed a couple of point-blank attempts while going 2 for 8, but that was an improvement from his scoreless Game 1.
But as they head home, the Nets still believe they can again become the team that beat the Heat all four times during the regular season.
“We have a lot of confidence in ourselves,” Garnett said. “We just have to go home and defend our home court.”
James, averaging just 22 points, has won at least one road game in every playoff series since he and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in Miami in 2010. A victory in Brooklyn would make it 14 straight series, giving the Heat the longest streak in NBA history.
Brooklyn tried to build a threat to the two-time defending champions last summer by bringing in Garnett and Paul Pierce to join All-Star center Brook Lopez and the Williams-Joe Johnson backcourt that was already in place.
They believed their aging roster had a two-year window, but the first could be slammed shut by Monday. Lopez was long ago lost to a broken foot, and while the Nets flourished with a smaller lineup, they’re now facing a team that has won two straight titles playing small-ball.
So the Nets need everyone to play well, but so far that looks unlikely. Garnett had 12 rebounds and defended well in Game 2, but should’ve had at least two more baskets. Williams, who has battled ankle problems and been in decline since signing a $98.5 million contract in 2012, passed and rebounded fine, but has to give the Nets points, too.READ MORE: COVID-19 Vaccination Sites In South Florida
“We look for him to bounce back in Game 3,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said.
Even with Williams’ woes, the Nets were within two points midway through the fourth quarter. TheHeat couldn’t shake them until getting three straight offensive rebounds during a 100-second possession in the closing minutes, and are bracing for another tight one Saturday.
“This is a very possession-oriented series. Not a lot of turnovers,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Possessions really, really matter and those extra ones can really be backbreakers.”
No NBA team has won a series after falling behind 3-0, so it doesn’t take all that considerable postseason experience the Nets roster possesses to realize Brooklyn has to win the next game.
“We need a win. It’s a must-win,” Williams said. “We can’t afford to go down 3-0. We need to get these at home starting with the one on Saturday.”
The Nets are only 1-10 against the Heat in the postseason, but they also hadn’t defeated Miami in the regular season for 4½ years before ending that 13-game skid with a victory on Nov. 1. That was in their home opener and cemented their belief that they could topple the champs in the spring.
They insist that confidence is still there.
“Our mindset is positive,” reserve Mirza Teletovic said. “We know we can beat this team at home.”
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