Nets Ready to Face the Heat

By Lenn Robbins | @lennrobbins

MIAMI - Paul Pierce said on Monday that he has watched only one replay of his series-clinching blocked shot of Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry.

There is no time to bathe in the glow of past successes.

The Brooklyn Nets, after closing out the Raptors Sunday night with the most thrilling Game 7 victory of these NBA Playoffs – a 104-103 triumph – are ready for the next challenge:

The two-time NBA champion Miami Heat.

This is the series that every member of the Brooklyn Nets family has been pointing towards since July 12, when G.M. Billy King acquired Kevin Garnett and Heat-killer Paul Pierce from the Boston Celtics.

After winning all four regular-season meetings between the teams – the first NBA team to do that since LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade were united – the series of all playoff series starts Tuesday night (7:00pm; TNT) when the Nets meet the Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

"The goal hasn't changed since the beginning of the season,'' said Pierce. "Our goal when we came in here at the beginning was to win a championship.

"We understand that in order to do that, you've got to go through the best, and Miami being that team over the last couple of years, we figured this was going to be a test for us, this was going to be a series that we would have to see if we are going to accomplish our goal. So, I mean, as far as saying at least match up with them, we feel like we are ready for whoever."

The Nets have proven they can beat the Heat, although they understand the playoffs are a different animal. Still, the confidence gained during the regular season, and in the gritty playoff win over the Raptor, has the Nets believing.

"We feel like we can compete with anybody,'' said guard Deron Williams. "Like you said, we did beat them four times and so we match up well with them.

"We did some things well against them, but this is a whole new season. Whatever we did in the regular season, that's out the window and starts over now.''

Pierce has tormented the Heat throughout his remarkable career. This season he averaged 21.3 points per game on 55.3-percent shooting, including a game-high 29 in the Nets 98-95 win in Miami on March 12.

Joe Johnson, who averaged 21.9 points and was the unstoppable force in the Toronto series, averaged 19.5 points on 51.7-percent shooting against Miami.

Johnson perfectly summed up where this Brooklyn franchise is today, compared to a year ago.

"Last year we were on the other end, and having exit meetings,'' he said. "Now we're preparing for a second round, so this is what it's all about.''

Especially since that second round series is against Miami.

The Nets have been on the Heat's radar since the preseason. Before the Nets beat the Heat 86-62 on Oct. 17 in Barclays Center, Wade downplayed Brooklyn's addition of KG and Pierce.

"I'm not singing their praises over here,'' said Wade.

James has been terrific against the Nets, averaging 27.5 points on 55-percent shooting, 7.3 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game this season.

But he hasn't forgotten the last play of the Nets' 88-87 win in Miami on April 8. James went in for what looked like a game-winning dunk only to be rejected at the rim by rookie Mason Plumlee.

When last seen, James was arguing for a foul call from the tunnel leading to the locker rooms in AmericanAirlines Arena. Whether it was a foul or not can be debated from Sheepshead Bay to South Beach.

This is fact: the Nets swept the Heat.

"They executed better down the stretch," Wade said. "That's what we pride ourselves on. They beat us at our own game."

The Nets match up well with Miami. They outrebounded the Heat, 201-158. And the Nets held the Heat to 94.3 points on 46.5-percent shooting. Miami averaged 102.2 points on 50.1-percent shooting overall this season.

Those are impressive numbers but the Nets know the Heat have the most important stat of all – two rings.

"I think they know what's coming,'' said Kidd. "We've seen them four times. I think we have the utmost respect for them and they have the utmost respect for us. So it hopefully can be a great series.''

It's the series every member of the Brooklyn family has wanted.

Nets Central

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