Miami relatively cruised through its first six playoff games, with only one of their wins coming by fewer than 11 points. After trailing by two at halftime in Saturday night’s Game 3 against the Brooklyn Nets, the Heat finally took a punch it could not counter.
“They got virtually everything,” Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the Brooklyn Nets’ second half offensive surge. “Everybody knows the threes they hit towards the end of the third quarter but they were getting drives, cuts, offensive rebounds, in transition and our shots stopped going.”
Brooklyn outscored Miami 26-14 in the third quarter and hit a franchise postseason record 15 3-pointers in a 104-90 win that brought the Nets to within 2-1 against the Heat in their best of seven series.
The Nets got 16 more rebounds, six more second-chance points and shot 52.8 percent from the field in the win, a very uncharacteristic effort for the two-time defending champs.
“I don’t think it’s enough sense of urgency defensively,” LeBron James said after the loss.
“I don’t think we came out with the focus we needed to get this game,” said Mario Chalmers, who said the Nets were just the more aggressive team on Saturday.
A few Heat players said that their gameplan was to shrink the court and make the Nets hit shots, and the Nets certainly made their shots.
“Some of that was our gameplan to shrink the court, they adjusted and made a lot of shots, some of it was not getting to shooters,” Dwyane Wade said. “When they shoot threes like that then they get anything they want.”
Wade said that the Nets hit a lot of contested shots in Game 3, which opened up driving opportunities. James talked about those contested threes as well.
“A lot of the threes they made were contested, so you clap your hands and pat them on the back on those ones they made.”
Spoelstra credited the Nets for getting into a great rhythm with their 3-point shooting. “Even their inside the three shots were open for a while, particularly in that second half,” Spoelstra said. “Teams can be dangerous when you give them a lot of rhythm.”
So what can Miami do to adjust and disrupt Brooklyn’s offensive rhythm in Game 4?
Rashard Lewis tried to posit an answer of his own.
“We’ve got to, first of all, contain the ball,” Lewis told SheridanHoops. “They had a lot of penetration and kicks as well as those wide open threes. We didn’t come out defensively minded tonight.”
Bosh stressed that Miami has to improve defensively on things they could control, including cleaning up the loose balls and limiting offensive rebounds. Brooklyn had nine in Game 3, which lead to those second-chance points.
“We weren’t doing our jobs defensively in our system and they made us pay every time,” Bosh said.
The Miami offense wasn’t where it wanted to be on Saturday either, shooting just 45.6 percent from the field, its lowest percentage from the field since Game 3 in the first round against Charlotte.
Shane Battier said the team had low offensive energy and wasn’t aggressive enough in getting to the basket.
“I just think we got caught up in missing a lot of shots and it just looked like our spirit got taken away offensively,” Battier said. “A lot of our movements were east to west instead of north to south.”
Driving towards the basket was a problem, Miami had just 26 points in the paint, as was ball movement.
“We’ve gotta move the ball,” Lewis said. “We didn’t have that many assists tonight. We’ve gotta set picks for each other, get each other open and get our bodies moving. I thought we were kind of standing around and just watching.”
Battier simplified things and said that the Heat were just not aggressive enough.
“Playoff basketball isn’t too complicated,” Battier said. “Usually the team that’s more aggressive usually wins. That’s the case usually 99.5 percent of the time. We need to come out and re-establish our aggressiveness.”
Miami followed each of its postseason losses last season with a win, and Spoelstra said that his team needs to approach Game 4 differently.
“We’ve been through everything as a team,” Wade said. “So our only job right now is to make sure that we stay in it, stay focused on what we need to do.”
Bosh said that the team’s first loss of the postseason comes at a good time and will allow Miami to regroup.
“We’re going to have to look at our mistakes and hopefully it will help us bring some urgency to ourselves because I don’t think we had that tonight,” Bosh said.
Brooklyn showed during the regular season that it could hang with the Heat, and Game 3 was a reminder that the Nets can compete with the best in the playoffs as well. As Battier said, look for Miami to re-establish its aggressiveness on Monday night.
Shlomo Sprung is a national columnist for SheridanHoops who loves advanced statistics and the way they explain what happens on the court. He is also the web editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. A 2011 graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, he has previously worked for the New York Knicks, The Sporting News, Business Insider and other publications. His website is SprungOnSports.com. You should follow him on Twitter.