MIAMI — Locked in.
Those were the two words forward Paul Pierce repeated several times in the locker room after his Brooklyn Nets beat the two-time NBA champion Miami Heat 96-95 on Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Nets improved to 3-0 against the Heat this season, and a lot of that had to do with the way Pierce was “locked in” with 29 points and the way Brooklyn guard Shaun Livingston “locked up” Miami forward LeBron James on the game’s final play.
Pierce scored 17 of his points in the third quarter, when he was a perfect 5-for-5 from the floor. For the game, he went 9 of 12, including 5 of 7 on 3-pointers. He also made 6 of 7 from the foul line.
“They weren’t going for pump fakes,” Pierce said of the Heat’s first-half defense, when he was held to seven points. “(Nets Coach Jason) Kidd said to ‘let it go’, and that’s what I did.
“Once I knocked down a couple of threes, it opened up the lane for me to get to the hole.”
It was a Pierce drive with 2:02 left that put the Nets up 94-92. The Nets never lost the lead after that bucket.
Nets guard Deron Williams added a pull-up jumper with 35 seconds left to push the lead to 96-92.
Forward Chris Bosh, who led Miami with 24 points, made a three-point play on a drive and a foul by Pierce with 30 seconds left, and Williams opened the door for the Heat by missing a late jumper.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who had 22 points, grabbed the rebound and called a timeout with 3.5 seconds left.
That’s where Livingston made the biggest play of the game, deflecting an in-bounds pass from Bosh that was intended for James, who had muscled his way into the lane and likely would have scored the winning points had he been able to catch the ball.
Bosh took the blame, saying he “threw the ball to where LeBron was instead of where he was going.”
Wade and James said the key was the defensive switch the Nets made when Miami tried a screen. Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra also credited the Nets.
“The read was there,” Spoelstra said. “It looked like LeBron had an angle on to the rim. Livingston made a heck of a play.”
At 6-foot-7 and 175 pounds, the rail-thin Livingston gives away one inch and 75 pounds to James. But he helped hold the superstar to 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting.
James did not attempt a shot in the final quarter.
“We trust Shaun on both ends,” Kidd said of Livingston, who scored 13 points. “He has long arms, and he understands how to use his basketball IQ. He got charges and came up with big defensive plays.”
On the final play, Livingston said the Heat tried to “get some misdirection and then get LeBron slipping to the rim or an isolation at the elbow. He chose to slip. That’s where I got a hand on the ball.”
The game marked the Nets’ first win in Miami since Feb. 1, 2008, breaking a streak of eight straight losses.
Brooklyn (33-20) won for the seventh time in their past eight games.
The Nets have held opponents to less than 100 points in eight straight games, the longest active streak in the NBA. The Nets are 7-1 in those games.
“They’ve got good size and individual defenders on the perimeter,” said Spoelstra, referring to players such as Williams, Livingston, Pierce and guard Joe Johnson. “Those guys have proven themselves during their careers.”
Meanwhile, the Heat (44-18) had its six-game home win streak snapped. The Heat fell two games behind the idle Indiana Pacers in the battle for the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Heat also trail the Pacers by one game in the loss column.
The teams played to a 22-22 tie in the first quarter and were still tied, 42-42, at the half. Brooklyn finally took a small lead after three quarters, 73-71. James had 10 points in the third, his best quarter of the night.
Besides Pierce and Livingston, the Nets got a lift from reserve forward Mirza Teletovic, who had 17 points and a career-high three blocks.
But it was Pierce who was the most locked in for Brooklyn.
“I’m sure his antenna is raised in games like this,” Spoelstra said. “When the ball leaves his hands, you are thinking the worst on this side.”
NOTES: Nets F Andrei Kirilenko (sprained right ankle) missed his second straight game. … Nets C Kevin Garnett (back injury) missed his seventh straight game. … Nets coach Jason Kidd on the leadership void with Garnett out: “KG’s voice is always dominant. But now, with KG out, (F Paul Pierce) has become the voice of our team.” … When Heat G Dwyane Wade blocked the shot of 6-foot-10 F Drew Gooden of Washington on Monday, it marked the 143rd time in his career that he has rejected someone who is at least six inches taller than his listed height of 6-4. … Looking at the Heat’s remaining schedule, they have five sets of back-to-back games, including four games in four cities in five nights next week. Circled on the calendar are two games: March 26 in Indiana and April 11, when the Pacers visit. … Up next, the Nets have a bit of a break before finishing their two-game road trip Saturday at Washington. … The Heat’s four-game homestand will end this week with Friday’s game vs. Denver and Sunday’s visit from Houston.
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