The basketballers from Brooklyn, not the ones from Hoosiers country, get asked how to beat the Heat.
What alchemy, what elements do they possess that allowed them to emerge triumphant four out of four times against the Heat this season?
Oh, everybody inserted the clichéd caveat before the question — the playoffs are different from the regular season — unless both rosters turned over half the players, there’s something worth examining in those four playoff-close games the Nets won.
Is it their length on the outside and depth of same? Is it their multiplicity of lineups that make them like boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. — hard to nail on match-ups? Is it their similarity to the Heat? Is it their black jerseys? Or is it The Kidd Factor?
First-year Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd started every playoff game for the 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks, the last team to beat the Heat in a playoff series, the 2011 NBA Finals.
When a reporter said to Kidd, “You’re the last people to beat them,” he smiled, “It was the Dallas Mavericks. I was just happy to be on their team.”
“It was a great experience,” Kidd said. “It was a long time ago. We had a great opportunity to win a championship, and we took advantage of it.”
Those who faced the media Monday at the team’s downtown Miami hotel, looking semi-refreshed fresh from Sunday’s Game 7 win in Toronto, tended to go with “all of the above.”
Brooklyn leading scorer Joe Johnson agreed the teams shared the characteristics of being smallish and relying on turnovers. He could also have added neither team’s exactly young, although the Heat’s key players — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers — as a group probably played an improved edition of video games growing up than the Nets (32-year-old Joe Johnson, 36-year-old Paul Pierce, 38-in-two-weeks Kevin Garnett, 30-in-June Deron Williams).
But the Nets do go deeper into their bench than the Heat. In Sunday’s Game 7 against Toronto, Kidd used 11 players, nine of whom played at least 17 minutes.
“It’s something we’re going to have to do,” Kidd said. “We’re going to need to throw different people at different guys, keep rotating and, hopefully, we can wear them down somehow.”
Said Pierce, “That’s been the key for us all year, our depth. That helped us through the injuries throughout the year. Just the fact that when guys got healthy to be out there and play. You talk about having a guy like AK47 [Andrei Kirilenko] come off the bench, Marcus Thornton, you’re talking about guys who have been starters in this league and they’re coming off the bench playing key roles for you.
“Andray Blatche has been a starter in this league. We’re probably the only team that plays 10, 11 guys in the playoffs.”
And many of those players possess the long arms and legs to create a thorny path to the bucket when James, Wade and Chalmers get into an attacking mood.
Coincidentally, as the Los Angeles Clippers make their first real playoff noise since anybody can remember, the Nets get key defensive contributions from 6-7 Shaun Livingston, a great hope of the Clippers a decade ago before knee injuries that seemed career ending.
When it was mentioned to Livingston that former coach Hubie Brown said he played the best one-on-one defense on James that he’d seen, Livingston moaned, “Aw, man …,” then he chuckled.
“It’s about the team defense,” he said. “Playing smart, obviously, trying to take the challenge one-on-one, but obviously knowing where the help is so we can send bodies and try to make him play in a crowd.”
Johnson dismissed the idea the Nets come into this series with nothing to lose.
“We want to keep playing,” Johnson said.