BROOKLYN - Paul Pierce stood in front of the Brooklyn Nets bench, faced the uproarious crowd in Barclays Center, and nodded his head up and down in approval.
There was 9:34 left in the third quarter of Game 3 of this Eastern Conference semifinal series and Pierce was affirming what every Nets fan was thinking:
IT IS NOW A SERIES!
The feisty Nets won Game 3, 104-90, handing the Heat their first playoff loss of the season and stating, without question, that this is a series which Miami leads 2-1, not 3-0.
"We wasn't going to panic," said Pierce. "We wanted to show them we're not scared of them.”
Scared? In Brooklyn? Ha!
The Nets were leading 85-67 when Alan Anderson got tangled up with Ray Allen, who has hurt the Nets in this series.
Words were exchanged. Shoves were delivered. Mouthpieces were removed.
When Anderson and Allen were separated, the sellout crowd of 17,732 was screaming its approval. Pierce was giving his blessing: This is playoff basketball.
"Loved it," Pierce said when asked about the environment in Barclays Center. "Loved it. We feed off of that type of stuff. It's like an adrenaline rush."
The Nets shared the wealth, setting a franchise playoff record by hitting 15 3-pointers and shooting 60-percent (15-of-25) from behind the arc. The bench, led by Andray Blatche's 15 points and 10 rebounds, contributed 40 points.
Six players scored in double figures, led by Joe Johnson's 19 points. Deron Williams bounced back from a subpar Game 2 to score nine points and dish 11 assists.
LeBron James led all scorers with 28 points, but was held to 12 after the first quarter.
This series has been getting chippier by the game. It was James, who after dunking over Pierce in Game 2, ran his mouth. Pierce pushed James away.
The Heat, which lost all four regular-season games to the Nets, were feeling rather big-chested after winning the first two in AmericanAirlines Arena. But Miami, as the longstanding joke goes, is where New Yorkers go to retire. Here is where they make their mark.
The Nets made their mark. It doesn't matter how the series got to 2-1. It did. It is. It's on.