Paul Pierce hit a huge 3-pointer to make it 100-93 in double overtime. Credit: Getty Images
To win their fifth straight game and knock off the Heat for the second time this season, the Nets had a plan to make life difficult for LeBron James.
That meant fronting him with multiple defenders, and flustering him to the point where the game’s best player might actually foul out.
James scored 36 points, but the Nets managed to execute enough of their defensive game plan to pull out a 104-95 double overtime win Friday night and earn a standing ovation from the sellout crowd.
“Gutsy, gutsy,” Kevin Garnett said when asked to describe the win.
The Nets won their third game against one of the league’s elite teams in the last week while improving to 15-21.
James wound up shooting 12-for-21, including 5-for-9 in the fourth quarter, but he eventually fouled out for the fourth time in his career in the regular season and first since April 2008.
James seemed to play angrier in the final 8:37 of regulation after Mirza Teletovic committed a hard foul on him, a play that came right after Andrei Kirilenko drew an offensive foul by taking an elbow to the body. James had to be held back by teammate Michael Beasley and Teletovic was given a flagrant one.
“You have to get under their skin,” Kirilenko said. “You have to make them nervous, [and] make them shoot the ball from not a good position. I think as a team we did a pretty good job of kind of exposing his weakness because he’s strong as a tree trunk and can go and overpower guys.”
“We just try to make it tough on him,” Paul Pierce said. “He’s the best player in the game right now. We did a great job on him. The good thing I thought we did today, we attacked him too. You never see LeBron foul out, I can’t even remember.”
Teletovic, who honed his talents in the rough-and-tumble European leagues, shrugged off James’ reaction.
“It was just a foul,” he said. “I just tried to make a foul and he was coming down the court. He shouldn't be reacting like that. It's just basketball.”
That was James’ fourth foul and at the time the Nets held a 80-75 lead. They managed to expand it to 84-79 but James scored seven points while also drawing his fifth foul down the stretch and the game went to overtime when Paul Pierce missed a game-winning 3-pointer.
“I felt pretty good about the shot,” Pierce said. “It didn’t fall.”
Both teams scored four points apiece in the first overtime and Pierce missed another potential game-winning 3-pointer.
James was called for an offensive foul to foul out with 36 seconds left in the first overtime when he tried to get past Shaun Livingston.
“I was just trying to make him uncomfortable,” Livingston said. “In that situation he’d be going to the rim and I was trying to bait him a little bit into driving and really trying to beat him to the spot.”
Still even if that was the defensive play of the night for the Nets, James was not thrilled with some of the other calls against him.
“I thought Kirilenko flopped a few times,” James said. “To be honest, I thought he flopped a few times and he got the call. I thought that the last one that fouled me out could have been a charge for sure, but he put his hands on me while I drove which put him off balance, which led him to getting the call. But Kirilenko definitely flopped on me a couple of times and got the call.”
Once James exited, the Nets seemed to regain their legs and dominated the second overtime. They went ahead when Pierce rebounded a missed 3-pointer by Joe Johnson and Livingston hit a four-footer in the lane off a feed from Garnett.
The Nets put the game out of reach on a 3-pointer by Pierce, a 21-footer from Garnett and a dunk from Livingston. By the time Miami scored its only points of the second overtime, the Nets had made mass substitutions and the crowd applauded the efforts of the team.
Those efforts included a 51-minute double-double by Livingston (19 points, 11 rebounds and five assists) and a 32-point night from Johnson, who made his first eight shots.
Pierce wound up with 23 points and Garnett continued his resurgence with his jump shot by collecting 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting and 10 rebounds.