The Nets were able to limit LeBron James in coming back from a 12-point deficit during the second quarter. But by the time the third quarter ended, James had regained his touch.
In a flash, the tone drastically changed and so did the outcome for the Nets, who were handed a 105-85 loss to the defending champions as James scored 15 of his 24 points in the second half.
“They’re a good team,” Nets forward Gerald Wallace said. “They’re the defending champions. But I don’t think they’re that much better than us. They won by 20-something points. I don’t think they’re 20 points better than us. I’m not saying they can’t beat us, but they’re not 20 points better than us.”
“In any sport you measure yourself up against a champion. They’re a champion and they’ve embarrassed us all three times, so what does that say for us as a team?”
For the third time in four games the Nets were handed a double-digit loss against a winning team. They also dropped to 10-19 against teams with winning records.
“We had maybe 20-something good minutes,” interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said. “You need like 40-something to beat these guys. We played some exceptional ones, we played some decent ones, but we just threw in some horrendous ones.”
“Those are games that we didn’t actually lose those games, we got our [butts] kicked,” Wallace said. “Those teams just pretty much dominated us. We’re saying we want to be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and we want to compete in the playoffs and eventually shoot for a championship but we have a letdown against some of the top teams in the league and we can’t do that.”
This time, the Nets were run out of the building with another poor third quarter. The Heat have outscored the Nets by a whopping 97-48 margin in third quarters this season. They closed out the third quarter on a 30-8 run Wednesday night.
“Whether guys got down or missed good shots or whatever, we stopped defending or rebounding on the defensive end,” Carlesimo said. “And then we were back to our real serious problem of not walking the ball up the floor and trying to get into a set defense and we couldn’t do that.”
“We’ve just to put it behind us and move forward,” Joe Johnson said after a 4-of-15 night. “We’ll take a look at the tape, but I don’t believe they’re 20 points better [than us].”
Before getting overwhelmed, the Nets had been able to hang with the Heat. They kept James somewhat quiet, holding him to one shot in the 6:14 that he played in the second quarter and the adequate defense allowed the Nets to close out of the half with a 20-8 run and a 49-49 tie at halftime.
That all vanished in a flash.
James started the period off by getting past Reggie Evans for a driving layup, and with 7:39 remaining, James put the Heat in front with a 3-pointer.
The 3-pointer gave the Heat a 58-55 lead and turned a respectable game into a 22-point contest.
At one point, the Heat had outscored the Nets 24-2 while getting points on 11 consecutive possessions. It also prompted a noticeable “Let’s Go Heat” chant from various points of the upper deck.
The dominance in the third led to Miami’s 13th straight victory over the Nets and James’s 17th consecutive win over the Nets dating back to his Cleveland days.
Not helping matters was a quiet night by starting point guard Deron Williams, who committed six turnovers and scored nine points on 4-of-9 shooting. Brook Lopez was the most effective starter as he led the Nets with 21 and seven rebounds.
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.