Nets fight back, hand Heat first loss in 2014 NBA playoffs

The Miami Heat lost for the first time in the playoffs this season when they were soundly beaten by the Brooklyn Nets 104-90 in Game Three of their Eastern Conference semi-final series on Saturday.

Apparently, the Miami Heat decided they earned a night off. This isn’t to dismiss their performance to win a third straight NBA championship ring.

It just means after three weeks of all-out mindful basketball against both Charlotte and Brooklyn, the Heat were a little up against it. This isn’t to take away from the Nets’ first win in this Eastern Conference semifinal series, but the defending champs let this one get away from them.

These things tend to happen, in the four years since LeBron James decided he’d take his talents to South Beach. All the drains that have hit LeBron and his cohorts since that televised move – a Finals loss, the NBA locking out its players, two championships, an Olympics run, another potential trip to the NBA’s final round – have given observers confidence in their assertions and James’ group the ability to take nights off.

Even if things get heated, pun intended, between the defending champs and a team that was designed to beat the Heat and no one else:

You run the risk of dismissing these Brooklyn Nets, especially when someone like Joe Johnson comes through with an ultra-efficient 19 points on 10 shots, and their bench plays so well, but a loss like this really is on the Heat. Miami whiffed on getting to its spots early in offensive possessions, the squad attempted to come back via the 3-point line, and it failed to dominate the Nets in the passing lanes that Brooklyn seemed to find with ease.

On top of the starting five woes, Miami had no counter for the loping Andray Blatche and Mirza Teletovic, who combined for 27 points in 39 minutes off of Brooklyn’s bench. Deron Williams (who has missed 17 of 20 shots over the past two contests) managed to adeptly probe the Heat’s kinda-there defense while finishing with 11 assists, and Kevin Garnett managed to make all of us 1990s babies happy with his 5-of-6 shooting.

Still, one has to get the feeling the Heat sort of let this happen.

That’s what happens when you fail to close out on the perimeter, in the face of a Brooklyn team that shot over 60 percent from long range. It’s what happens when you fail to initiate your offense early in half-court possessions, as the Heat tend to do in their losses, and it’s what happens when observers get the feeling Miami just sort of expected Brooklyn was going to take a game in its home arena.

That’s why shots like these go in, right?

Three-peats aren’t easy. It takes about 300-some games and three-some years and you’ve no idea how to prepare for an unending series of opponents. The Miami Heat shouldn’t feel uneasy about staring down the Brooklyn Nets, in spite of Brooklyn’s  4-0 season sweep against these Heat, but the defending champs also can’t be counted on to continue this fever pitch from April until June. Assignments are going to be missed. Narratives are going to be taken over. Three-pointers are going to be made. By the other team.

The Nets made their own fortune, on Saturday night, and they are to be applauded for as much.

Miami sort of let them get away with it, though, if we’re honest. Such is life when you can palm the rest of the NBA in your hand. The defending champions failed to swat a fly. That’s it.

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