In the end, however, James and the Miami Heat extinguished the
flickering flame that represented the Nets' season.
Backed by a 12-0 run in the final minutes, the Heat advanced to the
Eastern Conference finals with a 96-94 victory over the Nets on
Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Heat, who beat the Nets in five games, now await the winner of
the other Eastern Conference semifinal between the Indiana Pacers
and the Washington Wizards. The Pacers lead the best-of-seven series
As for Johnson, the Brooklyn shooting guard who made 15 of 23 shots,
including three of six 3-pointers, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra tried
to encourage James.
"Joe Johnson was a handful," Spoelstra said. "We kept telling
(James), 'Stay with it.'
"(Johnson) was making tough shots over the top. We didn't want to
send another defender because of their 3-point shooting. (James)
made a couple of big-time stops at the end by not panicking or
After a 20-foot jumper by Johnson, the Nets led 91-83 with 4:49 left
in the game.
That is when the Heat made their charge. James, the superstar
forward who led the Heat with 29 points, made a 3-pointer. Guard
Dwyane Wade, who had 28 points, added a 10-foot jumper.
Johnson then finally missed. He was off target on two jumpers in a
row, and James hit two free throws to bring the Heat within 91-90
with 1:12 left.
The Heat took the lead on a 3-pointer with 32 seconds left by guard
Ray Allen, who took a feed from point guard Mario Chalmers.
"I was going up for the shot," Chalmers said. "But when I caught it,
I knew (the Nets) had to make a decision between me and (Allen).
They closed out on me, and I was able to find Ray.
"That's a great option when you know you have the all-time greatest
3-point shooter to your left."
Nets guard Shaun Livingston then missed a shot in the lane, and Heat
forward Chris Bosh grabbed the rebound with 22 seconds left.
"There were some fouls out there," Livingston said of his bank shot
that rimmed out, "but I'm not going to cry over spilled milk."
After two free throws by Allen, Johnson cut Miami's lead to 95-94
with a 3-pointer.
James followed by making one of two free throws to put Miami up
96-94 with 9.5 seconds left.
The Nets lost possession with five seconds left when James slapped
the ball out of the hands of Brooklyn forward Paul Pierce. However,
the call was overturned, giving the Nets a final chance.
Johnson took a pass and dribbled toward the foul line, but James and
Allen stole the ball to preserve Miami's win.
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"I was in a crowd," Johnson said of the defense, "but it shouldn't
have even come down to that. We didn't execute down the stretch
offensively or defensively."
With the win, the Heat improved to 9-0 in the "Big Three" era of
James, Wade and Bosh in home games in which they had the opportunity
to close out a playoff series.
In addition to Johnson's contributions, the Nets got 19 points from
Pierce and 17 from point guard Deron Williams.
Johnson had 12 points in the third quarter as the Nets outscored
Miami 26-24 and padded the seven-point lead they held at halftime.
The Nets went into the fourth ahead 75-66.
There were 13 lead changes in the first half, but the Nets were up
49-42 at the break.
Cold-shooting Miami shot 34.1 percent from the field in the first
half, including one of 16 on 3-point attempts.
After the game, Nets first-year coach Jason Kidd seemed encouraged
by the big picture.
"It's a process, and we just put this together," Kidd said of how
quickly the team was assembled during the last offseason. "To get to
the second round gives us something to build on."
Meanwhile, the Heat is headed to the Eastern Conference finals for
the fourth consecutive year.
"It's an incredible accomplishment," Allen said. "It feels great,
but the job is not done yet."
NOTES: It is possible that Wednesday's game marked the end of the
19-year NBA career of Nets C Kevin Garnett, who turns 38 on Monday.
Garnett averaged a career-low 6.5 points in the regular season. In
the opener of the Heat series, he was held scoreless in a playoff
game for the first time in his career, and he scored just two points
in Game 5. ... The future of Nets F Paul Pierce, 36, also is
uncertain. He will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. ...
In a statistical oddity, reserve G Ray Allen led Miami in rebounding
twice in the first four games of this series. F LeBron James grabbed
a game-high nine rebounds Wednesday. ... Heat G Dwyane Wade, who was
rested repeatedly in the regular season, is healthy now. He has yet
to miss a postseason game and is averaging 34 minutes. ... Miami
made 29 of 31 foul shots Wednesday. Brooklyn had just 15 attempts,
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