Brooklyn Nets center Kevin Garnett has played in 140 postseason games throughout his 19-year career. He has scored in all of them except one — Tuesday’s series opener against the Heat.
Deron Williams, not long ago considered one of the top three point guards in the NBA, will be suiting up for the 61st playoff start of his career Saturday at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. He scored in his first 59 postseason games, then, on Thursday, he went 0 of 9 from the field and didn’t record a point.
Of all the measurable indicators that point to this Heat team’s defensive dominance to begin its playoff run, perhaps the most stunning statistics so far have been those scoreless games for Garnett and Williams. Garnett is a future Hall of Famer. Williams is a two-time Olympic gold medalist. Proud NBA veterans and faces of the league, they both have been reduced to nothing by the defending back-to-back champions in these Eastern Conference semifinals.
How shocking is that?
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After Game 1, the Heat’s players were actually making excuses for Garnett. It’s as if there was almost this communal sense of embarrassment and guilt. He’s not a primary option, Wade reminded everyone. He played only 15 minutes, Chris Bosh pointed out. Garnett’s role is more defensive, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
WILLIAMS’ ZERO AN ABERRATION?
As for Williams, he will be back, LeBron James said. A lot of his baskets almost went in, Spoelstra said.
No one actually wanted to take credit for shutting out the Nets’ star point guard. Wade dumped all the praise on Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole.
“Tonight, the game ball went to our point guards,” Wade said. “They did a hell of a job.”
With Williams missing everything, the Heat defeated the Nets 94-82 on Thursday to take a 2-0 lead in this best-of-7 second-round series. Of course, the truth of it is these scoreless games by some of the NBA’s most well-paid, highly regarded and prideful veterans have been anything but circumstantial. For the Heat, its six straight victories this postseason have been all about defense.
In their first six playoff games, Miami has allowed 89.3 points per game. In a possession-oriented series where every trip down the court is important, the Heat’s goal for Game 3 is to increase the defensive pressure. The Nets have averaged 17.5 points in fourth quarters this series. On Thursday, Brooklyn managed just 15 points in the final 12 minutes.
‘NOW IT GETS INTERESTING’
“For us, Game 3 is our next step to try to get better,” James said. “We’re going with the same mindset as we did with Game 3 in Charlotte. If we get to our game and we don’t turn the ball over, offensively we execute, defensively we put pressure on their guys and we give ourselves a great chance to win.”
“And if we don’t do those things, then we don’t give ourselves a great chance to win.”
The Heat lost both of its games at Barclays Center during the regular season. With the Nets in danger of falling in an 0-3 hole in the series, Wade expects the Heat’s toughest test of the playoffs Saturday.
“Game 3 is the most important thing,” he said. “We did what we’re supposed to do, just in the sense of protecting home floor. Now it gets interesting.”
“We’re trying to get one in their building. This is when the playoffs get fun.”