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HEAT 108 - Nets 94 Recap

This was, mostly, how you finish a four-game road trip.

After an uneven effort against the Cleveland Cavaliers resulted in a loss and ensuing games against Washington and Minnesota that were, if not continuing a downward trend, hardly encouraging, the Miami HEAT asserted themselves on either end of the floor in beating the New Jersey Nets, 108-94.

“None of us wanted to have any more regrets,” Erik Spoelstra said. We wanted to take care of our game and continue to move forward.”

The HEAT had their offensive mojo working early on, balancing LeBron James’ relentless interior attack with unselfish half-court execution to take a 21-6 lead within the game’s first six minutes, with 13 points belonging to James.

At times with this team, an early run such as that is cause for concern, with the success clouding the process that got Miami there in the first place. But with the exception of some second-half turnovers – seven from James – which gave the Nets opportunity to get out in the open court, the HEAT suffered no letdowns, shooting 56 percent with 60 points in the paint.

In large part because the defense was as good as its been in more than a week.

Just 94 points per 100 possessions for the Nets as the HEAT held them to 40 percent shooting and 30 points in the paint. New Jersey didn’t do itself any favors as it missed on a number of corner threes (8-of-28 from deep) created by Deron Williams, and Miami could have been hurt much more by some slow closeouts, but the Nets never had any one place they could clearly attack, and the HEAT didn’t allow them second possessions (six offensive boards for New Jersey).

Other than a spinning, behind-the-back pass faking layup from James in the first half, this would have otherwise been a win to pocket and forget about, were it not for two developments on the health front.

On the positive side, both Mike Miller (21 minutes) and Mario Chalmers (17 minutes) returned to the lineup, each looking active, if a little rusty. With Udonis Haslem traveling with the team this week as he inches closer to his own return, it was the closest Spoelstra has been all season to having his full complement of players to work with.

Unfortunately, Dwyane Wade took a Travis Outlaw knee to the thigh in the first half and was questionable to play the rest of the night. He did, eventually, after working out and warming up the bruise during halftime, but it becomes yet another item to monitor with the playoffs two weeks away. Two weeks that leave much to be decided.

Now tied with the Boston Celtics in the loss column and half a game ahead for the second seed in the Eastern Conference, the HEAT now control their own destiny for home-court advantage in the second round with one game remaining with the Celtics on the schedule.

They locked up the Southeast Division crown, too, with a loss from the Orlando Magic, but at this stage, the value of such a title is very minimal. Nobody remembers Division winners, but they remember a team that made a postseason run after rediscovering their balance and consistency in the early weeks of April.

Only with patience will we know if Sunday’s encouraging effort was the start of just that.