NEW YORK -- In the Heat’s locker room before Saturday night’s game, between LeBron James’ and Dwyane Wade’s locker stalls, sat a book titled “Learning the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You,” by author John C. Maxwell.
Despite the Heat winning its first six playoff games this season and taking a 2-0 lead over the Brooklyn Nets, the future Hall of Famers apparently weren’t about to rest on their laurels and stop learning how to lead the team.
After Saturday night’s 104-90 loss at Barclays Center, the Heat is now dealing with its first setback of the playoffs, albeit not because of the performances of its top two players.
James finished with 28 points and led the Heat in scoring for the third consecutive game. He also had a team-high eight rebounds and five assists. He played the entire first quarter, scoring 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting, but he only had two field goals the rest of the way.
Wade added 20 points. He didn’t play the final 3:15 as the Heat fell behind 95-79.
After leading by two at halftime, the Nets outscored the Heat 26-14 in the third quarter to pull ahead 77-63. During the quarter, Brooklyn made 11 of its 18 field-goal attempts, including 4 of 6 three-pointers. Meanwhile, Wade scored eight points during the 12 minutes, but the rest of the Heat only scored six.
The Nets maintained their double-digit lead throughout the fourth quarter and excelled in front of a crowd that included comedian Jerry Seinfeld and sportscaster Bob Costas. It was the first second-round home game since the Nets moved to Brooklyn in 2012, and the fans were especially boisterous.
Nearly every time James touched the ball, he was greeted with boos. No other Heat player received such a reaction. Still, James is accustomed to being a sports villain, and he’s flourished in that role.
James spent a good portion of his pregame media briefing discussing another polarizing figure: Johnny Manziel, his friend and business partner. Before the Cleveland Browns selected Manziel in the first round of Thursday’s NFL Draft, Manziel signed with the marketing firm run by Maverick Carter, James’ longtime friend.
During the first quarter, James had two sequences where he resembled a running back continuing to move forward after contact. With 6:21 remaining, he drove to the basket and scored while getting grabbed by multiple defenders, including Paul Pierce. Pierce was called for a flagrant foul. James made the ensuing free throw for a 16-15 lead, and the Heat regained possession.
Later in the quarter, Nets small forward Alan Anderson attempted to steal the ball from James near the foul line, but he reached in for the foul. It didn’t stop James, though, as he scored on a layup and made the free throw.
Before the game, James, Wade and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra noted that they weren’t happy with the team’s defense for the first three quarters of their 94-82 victory in Game 2. In the final 12 minutes of Game 2, the Heat outscored the Nets 25-15 to take a 2-0 series lead.
But the Heat wasn’t able to carry over that defense into Game 3. The Nets made 15 of 25 three-point attempts and shot 52.8 percent from the field overall.