Brooklyn likely to need two home wins to stretch series
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Home protection will be the key to the Nets’ self-preservation beginning Saturday night at the Barclays Center.
Entering Thursday night’s Game 2 of their best-of-7 Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series with the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat, our borough’s major pro sports franchise had already endured a humbling 107-86 loss to LeBron James and company at the American Airlines Arena.
Whether they return Downtown in a daunting 0-2 series hole, something they averted during their opening-round series against Toronto, or escape South Beach with a 1-1 split, the Nets must find a way to take advantage of the friendly environs on Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.
After going 2-2 on their herringbone-designed floor during last year’s gruesome first-round ouster at the hands of the Chicago Bulls, the Nets took two of three from Toronto at home in their recently completed seven-game battle with the Raptors.
The Heat, who had yet to lose a game in these playoffs entering Game 2 on Thursday night, figure to have an abundance of admirers in the building on Saturday, be it along Celebrity Row or among the expected crowd of 17,732.
James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the rest of the world champs are the biggest attraction in the NBA.
And Brooklyn’s still-developing fan base will have to be in full throat from opening tip to final buzzer in order to offset those in attendance to admire the Heat’s charge toward a third consecutive championship.
The Nets won a franchise-record 15 games in a row at home this season en route to an impressive 28-13 mark at Barclays.
They also took both of their regular-season home meetings against the Heat, edging them by a single point here in the Brooklyn opener and besting James and company 104-95 during their last visit in a double-overtime epic on Jan. 10.
Brooklyn, which began the season with 21 losses in its first 31 games before rallying for a 31-17 mark since the turn of the new year, knows a thing or two about overcoming adversity.
The Nets’ roller-coaster ride through the 82-grind and thrilling Game 7 victory at the Air Canada Centre on Sunday afternoon has hardened them for what they hope will be a long battle ahead against the Heat.
But a loss in Game 2 in Miami and any letdown at home beginning with Saturday night’s pivotal Game 3 will all but assure a short and sweet series victory for the Heat.
In other words, it’s Win or Stay Home this weekend for Brooklyn.
According to head coach Jason Kidd, the Nets were more than ready to take it to Miami in Game 2 and will be prepared to “protect home”, his mantra since assuming the post last summer, come Saturday night.
''We've been tested, beginning of the season, middle of the season, late in the season and in the first round [of the playoffs],'' Kidd pointed out after Tuesday’s Game 1 loss in Miami.
''It's nothing new to us,” he added. “Hopefully we can draw from that experience and help us find a way to win.”
Though Kidd rested most of his starters down the stretch after his team finished off a season-series sweep of the Heat in Miami on April 8, the Nets are just 5-8 overall since that 88-87 win, which was highlighted by rookie Mason Plumlee’s last-second rejection of James.
Brooklyn is 3-3 at home since completing its NBA season-high home winning streak with a win over the Pistons at Barclays on April 4.
That’s a mark that must improve if the Nets dare to even dream of extending this series, much less winning it, against the best team in the world.
Nothing But Net: The Heat, who quickly dispelled any notion that the Nets had their number by cruising to victory in Game 1, were still wary of Brooklyn’s deep and experienced roster entering Game 2. ''They're a veteran-enough group, Brooklyn, to know that the final score [of Game 1] doesn't mean anything in the playoffs,'' Miami coach Erik Spoelstra insisted. ''It's a long series. Throw that one away, you still have another opportunity to do what you came for. We had very good urgency and focus coming into that same game. We cannot have a letdown.'' … The Nets are shooting at a 46 percent clip from the field during their first eight playoff games, ranking them fourth in the league in that category. Unfortunately for Brooklyn, Miami ranks second overall in field-goal percentage at a sizzling 49.5 percent, including a 57 percent effort in Game 1. ''Defensively, that's not us,” Joe Johnson, who tied Deron Williams with a team-high 17 point sin Game 1, noted. “We can't let the other guys around LeBron and Wade have 15, 17 points. To beat this team, you can't allow that.'' … Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, acquired from Boston this past offseason with beating the Heat in mind, managed just eight points on 3-of-10 shooting in Game 1, with Garnett being held scoreless in a playoff game for the first time in his NBA career.