After earning a crucial victory over the Miami Heat in Game 3 of their second-round series, the Brooklyn Nets were brimming with confidence. Quotes poured out of the Nets’ locker room about how the Heat could be beaten. Paul Pierce went as far as asking head coach Jason Kidd to let him guard LeBron James for the rest of the series. The Nets had a swagger about them and were ready to show the Heat just how beatable they were.
Then, Game 4 happened. James went for 49 points and the Heat captured a key win to take a 3-1 lead in the series. One of the biggest reasons for LeBron’s phenomenal performance and Miami’s victory was the Heat’s ability to dominate Brooklyn in the paint. James scored 22 of his 49 points in the paint on 11-of-12 shooting.
When Brooklyn finally collapsed on James in the paint during the closing moments of the game, he kicked the ball outside to Mario Chalmers who found Chris Bosh in the corner for a clutch 3-pointer.
As a team, Miami found similar success scoring in the paint against the Nets. The Heat have scored 38.5 points per game in the paint through the first four games of the series. A big reason for Miami’s paint production is Brooklyn’s lack of shot-blockers. Of the 121 shots Miami has attempted from the paint, only five of them have been blocked.
Brooklyn relies on Kevin Garnett to provide rim protection, but he has been unable to deliver thus far. The Nets’ only other shot-blocker is Mason Plumlee, but he has only played a total of two minutes over the last two games. With Garnett struggling to perform and Plumlee on the bench, the Heat have had free reign at the rim.
In order for the Nets to get back into this series and have a shot of advancing in the 2014 NBA Playoffs, they will need to limit the Heat’s easy opportunities. Without a big-time shot-blocker, the pressure will be on Brooklyn’s perimeter players to keep Miami’s wings from penetrating into the paint.
Brooklyn will also have to consider double-teaming James and Dwyane Wade when they catch the ball in the post. If the Nets are unable to limit Miami’s dominant paint scoring, the Heat will close out the series in Game 5.