MIAMI — Blocking an attempted dunk by Miami Heat superstar forward LeBron James that would have won the game with two seconds left qualifies as a career highlight for most players.
But for a rookie?
This was beyond incredible for Nets first-year center Mason Plumlee, who helped Brooklyn sweep the regular-season series from Miami with an 88-87 win on Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Despite becoming the first team to win four straight against Miami since 2007-2008, Nets coach Jason Kidd was humble.
“You have the best player in the world (James) going against a rookie,” Kidd said, “and we got lucky.”
Plumlee made a dunk with 41 seconds remaining to give the Nets an 88-85 lead. After a dunk by Heat forward Chris Bosh and a missed jumper by Nets forward Joe Johnson, the Heat had a fast break with nine seconds left.
Forward Rashard Lewis dished to James, leading to Plumlee’s huge block.
After the game and before leaving for the dressing room, James watched the replay on the giant scoreboard and angrily tapped his right arm, indicating he thought he was fouled.
“I didn’t need to watch it,” James said later of the replay. “He grabbed my right hand. He didn’t do it on purpose. But he got my right hand, and the ball went off the rim and didn’t bank. If he got all ball, the ball would have gone straight down.”
Plumlee disagreed, of course.
But before he could even answer the media’s questions, he took merciless razzing from his teammates.
“Get my towels, rookie,” they yelled. “Good game, but get me my towels!”
Once the veterans let the interview continue, Plumlee insisted he did not foul James.
“I knew the clock was running out and LeBron was coming at me,” Plumlee said. “My initial thought was to foul him and make him earn it at the free-throw line. But I just got a piece of the ball, and it was even better.”
James had 29 points, 10 rebounds and six assists to lead the Heat, who have beaten every team in the NBA this season except for Brooklyn.
But with guard Dwyane Wade missing his seventh straight game, the Heat were lacking in scoring help for James. In fact, no other player scored more than 12 points. And even Bosh, who had the 12, was inefficient with 5-of-13 shooting from the field.
Meanwhile, Johnson scored 19 points to lead the Nets, who had more balanced scoring. Guard Marcus Thornton had 16 points off the bench and forward Paul Pierce added 14.
The Nets shot 52.9 percent from the floor and held the Heat to 47.8 percent. The Heat entered the game as the best shooting team in the NBA at 50.4 percent.
The Nets, who are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, could possibly meet the first-place Heat in a second-round playoff matchup.
Plumlee said his team would be confident if that were to happen — but not overly so.
“All four games could have gone either way,” he said. “You can point to Wade being out — they have had different guys out of the lineup. But so have we.
“It’s good. It gives us confidence, but it will be different in the playoffs.”
Certainly, Brooklyn (43-34) has the Heat’s attention. That is what happens when the Nets go 33-13 since Jan. 1 — the best record in the East during that span.
Miami (53-24) still leads the Indiana Pacers by a half-game in the battle for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Miami plays the Grizzlies in Memphis on Wednesday before returning home to face Indiana on Friday.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said getting ready for Memphis so quickly would be tough, but he clearly was not happy with how the last play against the Nets was officiated.
“It was a foul from my vantage point,” he said. “But what can you do?”
NOTES: Nets C Kevin Garnett (back spasms) sat out Tuesday’s game but is set to play Wednesday at Orlando. … Garnett played for the first time in a month Saturday at Philadelphia. While he was out, the Nets went 14-6. … Heat F Udonis Haslem (stomach flu) was not in the building on Tuesday. Coach Erik Spoelstra said he hopes Haslem does not have the same bug that recently kept SG Ray Allen out for five games. … Heat SG Dwyane Wade (hamstring) and C Greg Oden (back) missed their seventh consecutive game. … Heat C Chris “Birdman” Andersen (knee, back) returned to the lineup after sitting out one game. … Former Heat C Alonzo Mourning was officially selected to the Basketball Hall of Fame on Monday. He is the first player who competed primarily for the Heat to make the Hall. … Allen was in Dallas on Monday night to watch his alma mater, Connecticut, win the NCAA national title. … Nets F Paul Pierce is five points shy of becoming the 18th player in NBA history to score at least 25,000 points. Only three active players have accomplished the feat — Garnett, Lakers G Kobe Bryant and Mavericks F Dirk Nowitzki.
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