The Miami Heat have taken a laissez faire approach to working the boards for most of the year -- they ranked last in rebounding in the NBA’s regular season -- but usually their shooting and aggressive defense has made up for that shortcoming.
Occasionally, though, rebounding woes have come back to bite them. Saturday night in Brooklyn was one of those times.
Two nights after overcoming a seven-rebound deficit in their Game 2 victory in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Heat didn’t have either the shooting or the defense to overcome a 16-rebound gap in their 104-90 Game 3 loss to the Nets.
The problems were most pronounced in the third quarter.
The Heat entered went into the second half down by two points 51-49 despite shooting 53.1 percent from the field (17-of-32) to the Nets’ 46.2 The Nets, however, got off seven more shots (39) than the Heat with their 20-15 advantage in rebounds.
Then coming out of the intermission, the Heat suddenly went cold.
They made only five of their 19 field goal attempts in the third period, and all but one their possessions were one-and-done. The had only one offensive rebound as the Nets enjoyed a 14-4 advantage on the boards.
The Nets had only two offensive rebounds themselves, but didn’t need much more. They suddenly caught fire, going 11-of-18 from the field (4-of-6 on 3-pointers) and were sitting on a 14-point cushion, 77-63, entering the final 12 minutes. They ran their lead up to 20 points at one point in the fourth quarter before settling for the 14-point victory.
For the game, the Nets, who had outrebounded the Heat in each of their four regular-season wins over the Heat, had a 43-27 advantage in rebounds. The Nets ended up shooting 52.8 percent for the game after going 20-of-33 (60.6 percent over the final two periods. Miami made only 14 of their 36 attempts in the second half (38.9 percent) to end the game at 45.6 percent.
No rebounding. No shooting. No defense.
It’s a wonder the final gap wasn’t much bigger.
The loss was Miami’s first in this postseason and gave the Nets, who had dropped a pair of double-digit decisions in Miami to open the series, a much-needed boost.
With Game 5 and a potential Game 7 at home, the Heat still enjoy the scheduling advantage, and it’s not likely the Nets are going to go 15-of-25 from 3-point range again as they did Saturday. But how the Heat bounce back from such a dismal effort will be the key.
A win in Game 4 gives them a 3-1 edge coming back for a fifth game on Wednesday in Miami. A loss makes it a best-out-of-three series with the Nets on a roll.