This much is known after four matchups this regular season between the Heat and Brooklyn Nets. It would be one great playoff series.
Like every game this season between the teams, it came down to the end Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. And, like every game this season between the Heat and Nets, Brooklyn won. After a wild and back-and-forth finish, Nets rookie big man Mason Plumlee blocked a dunk attempt by LeBron James at the buzzer as the Nets defeated the Heat 88-87 to take the season series 4-0.
James led all scorers with 29 points, going 9 of 16 from the field and 11 of 14 from the free-throw line, but he couldn’t finish it off and failed to draw a foul call in the final seconds. Plumlee’s block fell in the hands of Nets reserve Marcus Thornton and Brooklyn began its celebration on the Heat’s home court. The visiting team swarmed Plumlee, who jumped around the court screaming at the top of his lungs. Meanwhile, James argued for a foul call that never came.
“That opportunity right there at the rim — it was a foul from my vantage point, but what can you do,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Said James: “It was a foul. That’s my thought. I should have been at the line.”
The incredible ending was obviously the climax of the regular-season series between the Heat and Nets, but every game this season was exciting. Three of the four games were decided by just one point. The second game of the series went to double overtime with the Nets winning 104-95.
“They’re a good team,” Spoelstra said. “They’re one of the hottest teams since the All-Star Game. … For whatever reason they’ve made more plays.”
Five players scored in double-figures for the Nets (43-34). Joe Johnson led with 19 points, going 9 of 17 from the field. Thornton had 16 points of the bench. Paul Pierce had 14 points. Mirza Teletovic had 11 points.
Chris Bosh had 12 points for the Heat (53-24) and Dwyane Wade (hamstring) missed his seventh game in a row. He has missed 26 games this season.
A corner three-pointer by Thornton gave the Nets an 84-82 lead with less than two minutes play to play, and Pierce ripped down a long rebound following a missed three-pointer by Bosh seconds later. The Nets’ lead grew to four points after a running floater by Johnson, but James answered with a three-point play to cut the Nets’ lead to 86-85 with 55.5 seconds left.
Johnson’s running floater capped a 9-2 run for the Nets.
Plumlee, who had already registered an impressive dunk earlier in the fourth quarter, countered James’ three-point play with a layup to give the Nets an 88-85 lead. Bosh then dunked to cut Brooklyn’s lead to a point. The Heat had the ball with 9.5 seconds to play following a missed three-point attempt by Johnson, but James was thwarted dramatically by Plumlee at the rim after a fast break.
A tip-in by Bosh put the Heat ahead by three points with 4:14 to play, but a driving dunk by Plumlee followed by a steal-and-score by Thornton pushed the Nets ahead 81-80. James quickly answered with a driving dunk and the game was set for another nail-biting finish.
The Nets shot 52.9 percent and won despite committing 17 turnovers for 19 points. The Heat was 7 of 24 from three-point range. Bosh and James combined to go 0 of 7 from long distance. Chris Andersen, nursing several injuries, had five points and five rebounds. The Heat was without Udonis Haslem, who is suffering from a stomach virus. Shane Battier started his 53rd game of the season, but his first since March 14.
Pierce might be getting old, but he’s still every bit the irritant James remembers from those epic postseason games against the Celtics. Pierce drained a three-pointer in front of the Heat’s bench to give the Nets a 72-69 lead with 8:13 to play and moments later turned to the Heat’s reserve players and offered some words. Hard to tell, but they probably were not polite.