Whether the Miami Heat preferred to face a team they had beaten four times in four opportunities over one they lost to four times in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs is academic now.
The Heat will take on the Brooklyn Nets, the only team they didn’t beat at least once in the regular season, in the best-of-seven series that begins Tuesday night in Miami (7 p.m. EDT, TNT). The Nets saw to that when they held on for a one-point win over Toronto Sunday in their first round matchup.
Both teams profess that the regular-season results don’t necessarily transfer to what happens in the playoffs, when the two teams will have only one-day gaps between meetings.
That may be particularly true in the Heat-Nets series since the games were all close affairs. The Nets won three of the games by a point. The other one went double-overtime.
Still, a look back at those four meetings reveals two things:
1. The Heat have to give LeBron James some help.
2. They have to attack the boards.
Here’s a recap of those games:
Nov. 1, Nets 101-100, at Brooklyn: The Heat trailed by 12 points with under three minutes remaining but outscored the Nets 14-3 and trailed only 99-98 after James hit a 3-pointer with 4.7 seconds remaining.
Joe Johnson hit two free throws for the Nets with 3.7 on the clock to get the Nets back up by three, and with 3.2 on the clock they sent Chris Bosh to the free throw line for two shots. Bosh made the first and intentionally tried to miss the second, but the ball went in. The Heat could not commit a foul in the remaining time.
The Heat got 26 points from James and 21 from DeWyane Wade. Together, they were a combined 16-of-31 from the field, but the rest of the Heat were only 16-of-36.
The Nets made 18 turnovers but forced Miami into 15 and won the rebounding 40-30. Johnson and Paul Pierce led them in scoring with 19 points each.
Jan. 10, Nets 104-95 (2OT), at Brooklyn: The Nets missed potential game-winning shots at the end of regulation and the first overtime (both by Pierce), but outscored the Heat 11-2 in the second extra period.
Without Wade, who sat out the game with the Heat playing the second of a back-to-back affair, James took over the scoring load and finished with 36 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. But he was nearly matched by the Nets’ Johnson, who had 32 points.
Backup guard Norris Cole, playing 52 of the possible 58 minutes, scored 18 points for the Heat. Pierce had 23 for the Nets.
James and Cole were a combined 20-of-35 from the field, the rest of the Heat 14-of-45.
One key statistic: The Nets enjoyed a 49-39 advantage on the boards and outscored the Heat 17-2 in “second-chance” points.
March 12, Nets 96-95, at Miami: Pierce led the Nets, scoring what has turned out to be a season-high 29 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field, and Mirza Teletovic came off the bench to add 17.
Chris Bosh led Miami with 24 points. Wade added 22 and James 19 for the Heat.
Pierce scored 17 of his points in the third quarter, which ended with the Nets on top 73-71. The game was tied at 92 when Pierce put his team up for good on a driving layup, and Deron Williams hit a 16-foot pull-up jumper with 35.8 seconds left to make it 96-92.
Bosh converted a three-point play with 30.6 left, and when Williams missed a 12-footer with 8.5 seconds remaining, the Heat had a chance. The Heat had to burn two timeouts to move the ball to the front court because Wade had taken a couple of dribbles before calling for one after rebounding Williams’ miss, which would have meant the Heat would have had to inbound the ball in the backcourt.
Maybe they would have been better off doing that.
Inbounding from the side, Bosh tried to get the ball in to James driving the lane, but Shaun Livingston knocked the pass away and time ran out in the scramble that resulted.
The Nets once again outrebounded the Heat, though this time by only a 37-33 margin. Again, however, they had a big advantage in second-chance points (12-1).
April 8, Nets 88-87, at Miami: Both teams were without key personnel with the Heat’s Wade out with a hamstring injury and Udonis Haslem sitting with a stomach virus. The Nets were without Kevin Garnett for a second straight meeting against the Heat.
James had 29 points for the Heat to lead all scorers, but it was two he didn’t get that makes this game memorable. With the Heat down by one in the closing seconds, James took a pass from Rashard Lewis on a fast break and went up for a dunk with less than four seconds on the clock.
But 6-11 rookie Mason Plumlee rejected James’ dunk attempt, and time ran out as the two teams scrambled for the ball.
Once again, James got little support from his teammates. Only two others were in double figures, Bosh with 12 and Cole with 10 points. Johnson led four Nets players in double figures with 19 points.
The rebounding differential continued to shrink with the Nets winning the boards 35-34. The Nets shot 52.9 percent from the field, the heat 47.8.
The two teams also met twice in the preseason with the Nets winning both games, but if regular-season games are seen has having little bearing when it comes to the playoffs, those two games back in October are even more meaningless.