BROOKLYN - With Floyd Mayweather Jr., pound-for-pound the best boxer on the planet sitting courtside, the Miami Heat threw a knockout punch at the Brooklyn Nets Monday night in Barclays Center.
LeBron James, the best basketball player on the planet, tied his career playoff high with 49 points to power the Heat to a 102-96 win that leaves the Nets on the mat in this Eastern Conference semifinals series.
It took one of the great performances in playoff history to beat the Nets, who trail 3-1 in the series. But unless James has another couple of performances of the same caliber in him, this series is not over.
He scored almost half of his team’s points. And as dazzling as the performance was, it turned the Heat into a one-man show. They had 14 assists on 37 baskets, 16 of which belonged to James.
James was sensational, making 16-of-24 baskets and 13-of-17 free throws. He had 40 after three quarters and had put the Nets in a nine-point hole. But Brooklyn kept countering from all angles, kept piling up points.
Deron Williams (13 points, seven assists, six rebounds) played his best game of the series. Joe Johnson, who has had a remarkable playoff run, had 18.
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, the two veteran warriors brought here for this kind of series, combined for 24 points and 14 rebounds.
But James, who broke his Heat playoff record of 45 points, was too much to overcome.
The final five minutes were as taught as any playoff game contested this season. The fans at Barclays Center shook the basketball cathedral on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.
Within a three-second span, James was called for his fourth and fifth fouls. Garnett converted two free throws to tie the score at 94-94 with 2:30 left. But the Heat scored the next five points.
Game 5 is Wednesday night in Miami in AmericanAirlines Arena. The Nets won twice there during the regular season but dropped the first two games of this series.