MIAMI - A quest came up short here Wednesday night.
The Brooklyn Nets, a team assembled to make a run at the NBA title for a quest they knew likely would go through Miami, saw their season end with a gut-wrenching 96-94 loss to the Heat.
There is no sugarcoating the disappointment. The Nets had their chances in Games 2 and 4 of this Eastern Conference semifinal series but failed to execute down the stretch.
And they surely had their chance Wednesday night, leading 91-83 with just under three minutes to go. But Miami used a 12-0 run to turn the game.
"There's always a winner and a loser,'' said Nets coach Jason Kidd. "We felt we had a great opportunity against the world champs and we just came up short.''
The Nets had two late chances. Shaun Livingston inbounded to Joe Johnson who was immediately doubled. Johnson got the ball to Paul Pierce on the sideline. Pierce was double-teamed and the Heat knocked the ball out of bounds with five seconds left.
The Heat deflected it out of bounds again, leaving 4.4 seconds left. Four point four seconds to save a season.
But James, the offensive star of Game 4, proved to be the defensive star in Game 5. James never allowed Johnson to get off a shot.
"You give the Heat credit,'' said Kidd. "They made the plays.''
The horn sounded with the Nets having gone out in the most painful way. The two-time NBA champion Heat won the series 4-1.
"This was a big challenge, this series,'' said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra "We knew it because of their veteran experience."
After Johnson's jumper with 4:48 left gave the Nets their eight-point lead, they didn't score again until Johnson hit a 3 from the corner with 10.4 seconds left. That ended a 12-0 run that gave the Heat a 95-91 lead.
Trailing 95-94, the Nets quickly fouled James. James, who scored 49 points in the Game 4 win, missed the first of two free throws. He hit the second, giving the Heat a two-point lead and the Nets one last chance.
Johnson finished with 34 on 15-of-23 shooting, seven rebounds and the admiration of the Heat.
"Joe Johnson was a handful,'' said Spoelstra. "He was a handful. We just told LJ, 'Stick with it. Stick with it.'''
Pierce added 19 points and Deron Williams had 17. James led all scorers with 29. Dwyane Wade had 28.