Early in the Game 3, the Nets were getting exactly what they wanted on the offensive end of the floor. They had nine fast break points in the first quarter and several more on the secondary break and early in the shot clock. The score was tied at 27 at the end of one, but the Nets had outscored the Heat 20-10 in the paint.
After that, those opportunities didn't present themselves. In the final three quarters, the points in the paint were even (24-24) and the Miami outscored New Jersey on the break (13-12).
So what happened?
Can't guard the pick and roll, huh?
Al Bello/Getty Images/NBAE
"You can't run when you take the ball out of the basket, and they shot a lot of free throws," Jason Kidd said after the game. "Them making shots and them shooting free throws killed our running game."
Still, it was just a two-point game when the Nets had the ball with 4:10 left in the fourth quarter. It was then that the Heat forced the three straight turnovers that won them the game.
First, they trapped Vince Carter up high on a screen and roll, and when he tried to dribble through the double-team, he lost the ball. Gary Payton grabbed and raced down the floor for a layup.
On the next possession, the Nets ran the same play and Carter lost the ball again, this time it was a jump ball. The Heat won the tap and Dwyane Wade took the ball to the basket and hit two free throws on the other end.
The next time, it was Jason Kidd that turned it over trying to force a post pass into Richard Jefferson. Wade drew another foul following that play. The two-point game quickly became an eight-point game with Nets not even getting a shot off.
By the way, who was the defender that double-teamed Carter on those two pick and rolls? None other than Shaquille O'Neal. He's not supposed to be able to do that.
Frankly, the Heat aren't supposed to be a very good defensive team, but Alonzo Mourning knows they have the ability to be one.
"When we put our mind to it, that's a huge strength of ours," Mourning said after the game. "When our defense is on, it causes a lot of problems. And it showed out there in the fourth quarter."
Jason Kidd says that while the defense was good, the Nets were certainly responsible for their own mistakes.
"It was a combination of us losing our patience and them picking up the intensity on the defensive end," Kidd said. "We kind of rushed and we made plays that we normally don't make. And they capitalized on it."
Back to the Big Three?
Nenad Krstic had a breakout year. He finished third in the voting for the Most Improved Player Award. People had dropped the moniker "The Big Three" they were using for Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson, adding Krstic and renaming them "The Big Four."
Krstic had a terrific series last year against the Heat, averaging 18.3 points and 7.5 rebounds while shooting .563 from the field. He had very similar numbers in the first round this season against Indiana.
He was becoming automatic from mid-range and his ability to step back and hit the jumper off the pick and pop was going to be a key for the Nets in this series. But something has gone wrong.
So far, Krstic is just 2-17 from the outside in the Conference Semifinals. Tonight, he missed all seven jumpers he took. If he makes just three of them, this is a different game.
It's clear that Krstic has lost some of his confidence. As the Nets locker room was clearing out after the game, the young Serbian was sitting in his locker, chatting with Nets shooting coach Bob Thate, perhaps looking for a solution to his problems.
It is something that will need to change if the Nets want to win the series. Those shots will continue to be there and Krstic's teammates will not give up on him.
"We don't care if he goes 10-for-10 or 0-for-10," Richard Jefferson said before Game 3. "We're still going to pass him the ball the same way, so even if you he misses three or four in a row, learn something from Vince, J Kidd, myself that even if you miss a few in a row, don't put your head down. Just keep going and the first open look you get, continue to shoot it."
Getting Along OK Without Uncle Cliffy ... So Far
The Nets did not seem too affected by Clifford Robinson's five-game suspension on Friday. They didn't exactly have time to make any major adjustments since the announcement came at noon, after the players had already gone home after morning shootaround.
Before the game, Lawrence Frank said that they wouldn't change things dramatically because of Robinson's absence.
"The last thing you want to do is totally change everything that you've worked on, especially since we got the announcement at noon," Frank said. "Since getting word of the announcement, we've put together some different ideas and in the event that things don't go the way that we'd like to, then we've got to be ready to adjust. I think it's important that we don't overreact and start to spin all the wheels before it's absolutely necessary."
And it wasn't necessary tonight, as Jason Collins stayed out of foul trouble (he did foul out, but three came in the fourth) and did a terrific job on Shaquille O'Neal. Robinson may have helped on the offensive end (especially with Krstic struggling), but he hasn't exactly been lighting it up so far in the playoffs, shooting just .333 from the field and scoring just 4.5 points per game.
"It affected us, but not to the point where it cost us the game," Jefferson said. "Twin did a great job on Shaq. It's not like Shaq went big. It's not like we were for a lack of bodies. We need Cliff Robinson to be the team that we can be, but we lost this game with the men in this room."