Nets General Manager Billy King said he had built Brooklyn’s team specifically to take down the Miami Heat at the beginning of last season.
He quickly found his calculations were way off.
Brooklyn lost by an average of 21 points in three contests against Miami back then. The games were so lopsided that this column advocated intentionally losing games as the postseason neared, in order to fall to a playoff seed that would allow the Nets to avoid the Heat for as long as possible.
What a difference a year makes.
This season, Brooklyn played defending-champion Miami four times and, as of Tuesday, were victorious every time. The additions King made to the Nets during the offseason appear to have finally realized his goal of creating a Heat-seeking squad.
The key to the Nets’ success against Miami has been the team’s depth. In each of the four games, different Brooklyn players have stepped up. Maybe the Heat could have predicted Paul Pierce’s big-game instincts would kick in, or Joe Johnson would get hot at some point. Mirza Teletovic exploding for 17 points in 16 minutes in Game Three, however, was less predictable. Same with Andrei Kirilenko’s timely defense and hustle in Game Two. And Tuesday, it was Marcus Thornton stepping up with 16 big points (not to mention Mason Plumlee’s huge last-second block on LeBron).
After Brooklyn’s one-point win this week, the Nets’ 4-for-4 record against the Heat could start looking to some fans like a four-game sweep if the two teams meet in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Smart money would caution that Miami has proven to be a different beast in the postseason, but it is also reassuring that no one — not least, the Heat — seems capable of predicting who will emerge as the Nets’ biggest threat on any given night.
Matt Spolar is a nearly 6-foot-1 journalist with a middling high school basketball career who is sure the Nets win thanks to team’s top-tier guards.