With under three minutes to play in Wednesday’s Game 5 between the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets, it appeared as if LeBron James and company might be headed for a dangerous sixth game on the road. Brooklyn held a late eight-point lead and looked ready to extend the series by another game.
The Heat, though, proved (again) exactly why you can never count them out.
Despite the deficit, Miami never panicked on their way to a surprising 96-94 win at home. Down eight, James, as expected, led the way, scoring five of the team’s seven unanswered points to cut the lead to one. He got some help from reserve Ray Allen, who scored five points in the game’s final 32 seconds, but while the Heat made clutch plays down the stretch, they were also helped by the Nets’ ineptitude.
Brooklyn never seemed willing to put Miami away at the end and their offensive possessions were nothing short of disastrous. The team scored a grand total of two points over the final 4:30 of the game. After a Joe Johnson score gave Brooklyn that brief eight-point lead, the Nets simply couldn’t buy a bucket.
“Give the Heat credit,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said. “They were attacking there in the fourth quarter. We were attacking. Both teams were attacking. They made plays, they made shots and we didn’t.”
Brooklyn came out and promptly missed their next five shots before Johnson had a shot blocked by James as the team clung to a three-point lead. In all, the Nets missed an amazing nine straight shots from the field as they watched their lead dwindle and dwindle, eventually disappearing.
One player who absolutely can’t be blamed is the aforementioned Johnson. He scored 12 of the team’s 19 points in the fourth quarter on his way to a game-high 34. Johnson is often blamed for his streaky play, but the star brought his ‘A’ game in trying to postpone Brooklyn’s playoff exit almost single-handedly.
Other than him the Nets’ players were M.I.A not only down the stretch, but for the entire fourth quarter. Deron Williams had 17 points in the game, but was scoreless in that last quarter. Paul Pierce contributed five points in the fourth, but was only 2-for-6 from the field and wasn’t around when it counted, missing his last four shots. Leaving Johnson out of the equation, the team went 3-for-14 over the final 12 minutes and that, maybe more than anything, is what ultimately sealed their fate. Miami made shots down the stretch, but if Brooklyn had any offense at all over the last few minutes, the series is likely still alive.
Miami proved once again that they give clutch performances to win games, but they also got some help from a Brooklyn team that utterly folded in crunch time.