Up 91-83 versus the Miami Heat in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, the Brooklyn Nets seemingly had Game Five in hand. It was looking all the more likely that a Game Six was going to be played in Brooklyn on Friday night. They were overcoming a great first half performance from Dwyane Wade and a second half emergence from LeBron James. Then, for a second consecutive game, the Heat made a run and the Nets had no answer to save their season.
James, Wade, Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers and Chris Bosh each came through for the Heat late in the game as the team went on a 12-0 run to put them ahead 95-91. The Heat were able to penetrate the Nets defense and swing the ball around quickly which created good scoring opportunities. On the shot that put them up for good it was Chalmers that delivered the biggest assist of the game.
James was able to draw several defenders closer to him as he started to drive to the basket. Chalmers came up pretending to set a pick. By doing so, when Chalmers came his defender, Deron Williams, instead left him to help on James. James then passed the ball to an open Chalmers behind the three-point line. One would think that Chalmers would automatically shoot the ball, right?
Well, that's exactly what Shaun Livingston must have thought. Livingston was caught in no man's land. He was originally guarding Allen in the corner but as Williams decided to leave Chalmers open, Livingston then came in pursuit of Chalmers. The veteran point guard then showed his unselfishness and basketball IQ. He jumped like he was going to shoot the ball but as Livingston closed in he passed the ball over to an open Allen for a baseline three-pointer. Joe Johnson then was not able to recover in time to get to Allen, who sunk the three and put the Heat up for good.
Then, in the final seconds, controversy ensued.
The Nets were able to cut the lead back down to one following a corner three from Johnson. After James made just one of two free throws, the Nets called timeout. Miami's players locked to be glued to the Nets' as Brooklyn had trouble just inbounding the ball. Once Paul Pierce got the ball, he dribbled close to the sideline and lost the ball. The officials called it Nets possession but still went to watch the replay, which seemed to show Pierce being fouled by James on the arm but Pierce's hand being the last one that touched it. The officials stuck with their call on the floor and called it Nets ball.
Still, with five seconds left on the clock and still breathing with a chance to win the game or send it into overtime, Brooklyn had trouble again getting the ball in. After a deflection out of bounds from Bosh, the Nets had another opportunity. This time Livingston was able to pass the ball to Johnson. However, James played great defense as he forced Johnson to lose control of the ball and turn it over.
The final five seconds of the game were really a microcosm for how the final minutes of the game went for Jason Kidd's squad offensively. The Nets could not get any separation offensively from the Heat defenders and had a ton of trouble executing. There was no rhythm to the offense, players stopped moving and the ball movement came to a halt. Every step that a Nets player took a defender was right there breathing on him.
Johnson was red-hot in the second half as he scored 24 of his 34 points. However, there were a couple of possessions late in the game where he didn't even touch the ball. When he did, James was all over him.
Also noticeably absent in the fourth quarter was Williams. He finished with 17 points but did not score a point in the fourth quarter.
This will be a difficult way to enter the offseason for the Nets, having been close in each of their final three losses in the fourth quarter. The Nets failed to get the job done in the late stages of each of those games. The Heat have been amongst the best in such games in the last four seasons.
A team filled with as many veterans as the Nets have, though, knows very well that being able to execute late in pressure-packed games is what separates the best teams from the rest of the crowd. The Heat are two-time defending champions who are headed to their fourth straight Eastern Conference Finals.
Brooklyn now heads to an offseason that will be filled with uncertainty.
Tags: Basketball, Brooklyn, Brooklyn Nets, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson, Lebron James, Miami Heat, NBA, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen