The MiamI Heat open the series they really didn’t want to play and thought they had avoided by getting the No. 2 seed in the East on Tuesday.
That would be against the sixth-seeded Brooklyn Nets, who took out the Toronto Raptors on Sunday 104-103 in Game 7 of their first-round series.
The Heat, meanwhile, haven’t played since April 28, so they’ll be at eight days between games by the time the ball it tossed up for the opening tip of the series at American Airlines Arena.
There have been murmurs, whispers and in some circles, flat-out shouts, that the Nets tanked some games down the stretch in order to let the Washington Wizards overtake them for the fifth spot in the East, allowing the Nets a first-round meeting with an untested Toronto squad rather than the veteran Chicago Bulls team who knocked them out in the first round a season ago and who gave them first in 2013-14.
That, in turn, leads to a second-round meeting with the Heat, who—in case you missed this little tidbit—were swept in their four regular-season meetings with the Nets.
For their part, Brooklyn is treating the matchup with a great deal of deference.
Paul Pierce echoed that theme.
“They’re a different team in the playoffs,” Pierce said. “Series like this that push you get you ready for the next round, so we’re going to be battle-tested going into Miami, I think.”
It’s also a matchup of two of the three NBA teams who have an average age of 30 or older, so rest might be something to consider. The Heat—the NBA’s oldest team at 30.6 years on average—will have had eight days. The Nets—the third-oldest team at the league at 30.0—will have had a flight from Toronto to Miami with one day in between games.
Game 1 will put the old rest vs. rust theory to the test, to be sure.
The Heat were the best shooting team in the NBA this season, the only team to break the 50 percent barrier at 50.1. But against the Nets, they shot 46.5 percent overall and 33 percent from long range, which was well below their overall season mark of 36.4. They were also outrebounded by 40.3-34.0 in the four meetings against a Brooklyn team that was one of the worst rebounding units in the league. Of course, so was Miami—they were ranked last in the NBA at 36.9 rebounds per game, the Nets were 29th at 38.1.
LeBron James scored 27.5 points per game in the four meetings with Brooklyn on 55.1 percent shooting, just was just 4-for-14 (28.6 percent) from long range. Dwyane Wade only played in two of the games, averaging 21.5 points per contest when he did play. Chris Bosh checked in with 15.8 points per game on 50 percent shooting, while Norris Cole (10 points per game) and Mario Chalmers (11 points per game in three games against Brooklyn) also were in double digits.
Ray Allen struggled against the Nets, though, shooting 28.6 percent overall and 21.4 percent from 3-point range.
Brooklyn shot 47.7 percent overall and 40.9 percent from 3-point range against Miami. That compares to season percentages of 45.9 and 36.9, respectively.
Pierce was very good against the Heat, averaging 21.3 points per game on 55.3 percent shooting, and Johnson averaged 19.5 a night on 51.7 percent shooting.
Deron Williams, however, struggled against Miami, averaging 7.3 points and shooting 33.3 percent from the floor in the three games he played in. He did average 7.3 assists. Kevin Garnett played in just two of the games against the Heat, averaging nine points and 8.5 rebounds in 31 minutes a game.
So does Brooklyn have some sort of hex against the two-time defending champs? We’ll have to wait until Tuesday night to start learning that answer.