That was the Heat’s points in the paint edge in their all-too-easy 21-point victory over a Brooklyn Nets team that had beaten them on all four occasions in the regular season.
Miami made a living in the paint, with nearly half of their 107 total points coming from that area. With the Nets failing to find any clear answer to guarding LeBron James, the eventual three-time Finals MVP feasted in the post, abusing the lanky Shaun Livingston, the smaller Joe Johnson, and the older Paul Pierce.
The Heat had 22 assists on their 42 makes, and shot an impressive 57% overall from the field. With the Nets attempting to match the Heat with a small lineup of their own, all the Heat had to do was feast on their individual matchups, and have constant player and ball movement until an open shot was found.
Although they were only rewarded with 16 free throws, including only a combined two between LeBron and Dwyane Wade, it had more to do with the Nets’ matador defense, and their lack of a physical interior defender.
Yeah, Kevin Garnett’s there, but he’s 37-years-old and barely playing over 20 minutes anymore. With the only other interior presences featuring the likes of Mason Plumlee, Andray Blatche and Mirza Teletovic (seriously), Miami had open season going over or around the Nets’ painfully small front line.
Ray Allen: 19 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists
The Heat couldn’t afford a repeat of Ray Allen’s sub-30% shooting against Charlotte in the previous round. So, to say the least, what the Heat got out of Ray Allen in Game 1 is more than they could have ever asked for.
In 26 minutes, Ray, going against his former teammates in Pierce and Garnett, dropped 19 points, outscoring the former Celtics duo by 11, and hit on four of his seven three-point attempts. It’s the first time since April 6th that Ray hit four threes in a game, and only the seventh time all year he’s converted four three-pointers in a game.
Three of those makes came in the second half, where the Heat outscored Brooklyn 61-43.
It’s strange to say, but Ray looked as confident in his shot as I’ve seen this season. He took shots without hesitation and at any point he had a moment of breathing room. The prospect of going up against Pierce and Garnett in a playoff series for the first time may have spurred something.
Allen was actually the second-highest scorer in the game, trailing only LeBron and his 22 points. The 19 points he finished with was the most he’s scored since dropping 25 in a March 16th win over Houston.
The Nets shot 42% from three…
and still received one of the worst losses since the All-Star break. Excluding a season-finale blowout loss to Cleveland, where most of the starters sat, the Nets previous worst loss came in a 110-81 defeat to the New York Knicks back on April 2nd.
Heat fans knew they’d be due for some frustrating shot-making by these Nets, and, sure enough, they got it.
Deron Williams hit not one, but two buzzer-beating threes, including one that was shot over Chris Andersen and banked in from about 30 feet, while Joe Johnson hit three of his own. Paul Pierce hit two, although both came in the first quarter.
Brooklyn shot 46% on 44 contested shots, with Johnson going 5-for-8, Williams going 3-for-4, Teletovic going 2-for-3, and Marcus Thornton going 3-for-6. Paul Pierce was the only perimeter player who struggled on contested shots, shooting 1-for-4.
As a team, the Nets shot 30% against the Raptors from three, and were a slightly above-average three-point shooting team in the regular season.
If the Heat continue to play defense the way they were last night, limiting Brooklyn to a paltry 11 assists on 33 makes, they’ll soon see it pay off, with the Nets’ contested field goal percentage sure to drop.