New arena, same Nets.
Barclays Center might be the new jewel of the NBA, but the Nets who play on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush are still the whipping boys of the Heat.
Miami’s 105-85 victory on Wednesday was its 13th in a row against the Nets. LeBron James, who finished with 24 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in 34 minutes, has won 17 in a row against the long-suffering franchise.
Of course, the Nets have new hope this season to go along with their shiny new arena and its architecturally hip design, which features, of all things, an oculus in the roof of its front-door pavilion. Those hopes were dashed upon the breakers in the third quarter against the defending champions. The Heat outscored the Nets 36-14 in the period.
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The score was tied 49-49 at halftime. It was Brooklyn’s first loss at home in nine games.
James entered the arena screaming with excitement and was still shouting in the fourth quarter. His ridiculously difficult 18-foot fadeaway jumper over Brook Lopez, which arced about 20 feet in the air, gave the Heat an 87-67 lead with about 10 minutes to play.
Following the shot, James shook his head and let out a cry of satisfaction as he trotted down court.
Before the game, James walked into the visiting locker room announcing his presence to everyone.
“He here! He here!” James screamed in the third person.
After the game, James was still talking. Turns out, the comments Nets forward Reggie Evans made about James and the Heat before the game struck a nerve.
Evans indicated on Wednesday morning that the merits of the Miami’s 2012 championship were somehow diminished because the Heat won the title during a lockout-shortened season. James didn’t like it.
“No one knows what it takes unless you’ve done it,” James said. “You can’t sit here and judge and talk about a team winning a championship unless you’ve been through it and actually done it. He hasn’t done it.
“I’m not going to sit here and give Reggie Evans a lot of press because that’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to give him a lot of press and people going to talk about Reggie Evans for the next couple of days when he probably wouldn’t be talked about.”
But James couldn’t help himself. He still wanted to talk about Evans.
“You can’t just come out and say something like that against a champion. … Let me look at his numbers,” James said.
He then theatrically looked down to a stat sheet resting on top of the bucket of ice soaking his feet and ankles.
“Hold on,” James said, “I’m looking at Reggie Evans’ numbers real quick. He had no offensive rebounds, so we did our number on him, and we got the win more importantly.”
Evans, for his part, exited the Nets’ postgame locker room before reporters could ask him questions.
James was 10 of 18 from the field and 3 of 4 from three-point range. The Heat shot 51.8 percent from the field and 57.9 percent from three-point range in its first game at the new arena.
James led with his three three-pointers. Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis had two each.
“I know he’s unguardable,” Dwyane Wade said of James about the nights he is properly motivated. “When he really wants to play — really, really excited about i t— it’s going to be a good fun night.”
The Heat forced eight turnovers in the pivotal third quarter. A sloppy first half kept the game close. James had four turnovers and Wade had three in the first half.
“We had too many turnovers in the first half … and we let them back in the game,” Wade said.
Forward Chris Andersen, who the Heat signed to a second 10-day contract on Wednesday, delivered a strong performance in his first meaningful minutes since joining the Heat.
Andersen checked in with the scorer’s table near the end of the first quarter and proceeded to score three points and grab three rebounds in his first three minutes of work.
“My legs feel like noodles,” Andersen said when asked how felt physically after playing almost 10 minutes.
During one sequence in the first quarter, Andersen stole a pass from Nets point guard Deron Williams, dribbled the length of the floor and then scored with a Wade-esque Euro-step.
“I’ve always had,” Andersen said. “Just never had to use it. I’m used to dunking. I’ll be flying down the court soon, though.”
Wade scored 21 points on 9 of 16 shooting. Chris Bosh, playing with a sore foot, had 16 points and four rebounds.
Williams played despite suffering from flu-like symptoms leading up to the game.
He scored his first field goal with less than six minutes remaining in the first half and finished with nine points in 34 minutes. The Nets finished with 19 turnovers for the third game against the Heat this season.
A memorable fast break from Mario Chalmers to Wade to James put the Heat ahead 68-57 with 4:59 left in the third quarter. From there, the Heat poured on the pressure and the Nets faded. A few uncontested shots later and the Heat had a 19-point lead.
Lopez had 21 points and 17 rebounds for Brooklyn. Joe Johnson had 16 points and Andray Blatche scored 12 points and had six rebounds off the bench.
The Heat is 11-10 on the road this season and now travels to Indianapolis for an emotional rematch with the Pacers, who blew out the Heat a few weeks ago.