Basketball / Sports

Miami Heat LeBron James takes a shot against Brooklyn Nets' Shaun Livingston in Game 2 of Eastern Conference semifinals on Thursday, May 8, 2014, in Miami. (Robert Duyos/Sun Sentinel/MCT)

Starters' struggles haunting Nets as series shifts to Brooklyn

MIAMI -- After a blowout loss to open the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Brooklyn Nets vowed to be more aggressive, to attack the paint, and to play with more energy against the Miami Heat in Game 2.

They felt they did that on Thursday night and were where they wanted to be in the fourth quarter when they were within two points with 6:55 left.

Then the Heat went on a 7-0 run. Later came the 100-second possession in which Miami pulled down three offensive rebounds, gave itself a 10-point lead with less than two minutes remaining and virtually ended the Nets' hopes of taking a tied series back to Brooklyn.

It was a stretch that highlighted one of the biggest problems the Nets have had in the playoffs against the Heat. After winning all four against Miami in the regular season, Brooklyn is struggling to get the production it needs from some of its biggest stars -- when they are needed most.

In back-to-back games, two Brooklyn starters have come up empty. First it was veteran Kevin Garnett, who went scoreless for the first time in his 139-game postseason career on Tuesday. Thursday wasn't much better as he finished with just four points, with both of his field goals coming in the second half.

Then Deron Williams, who had 17 points in Game 1, went scoreless in the Nets 94-82 loss on Thursday. It was the first time in 60 postseason games the three-time All-Star went without scoring.

"They put two on the ball. I was aggressive. I got to the point, I just didn't hit any shots," Williams said. "I'd still do the same things as far as when I'm doubled ... attack in transition. I just couldn't buy a bucket or get to the free-throw line."

Added Garnett, who did have a game-high 12 rebounds: "I am trying to get a flow and a rhythm and try to bring something. It's just frustrating. I'm working. I'm going to continue to work and continue to find ways to be aggressive. Offensively, I got to continue to set picks and get these guys open and looking for an opportunity. Other than that, rebounding the ball, box out as much as I can, continue to talk and respond."

The lone positive Williams pointed out after Thursday's loss is that with their season hanging in the balance, there's little time for the Nets to dwell on their two losses in Miami. They'll be back on their home floor on Saturday and understand the need to get back to the kind of the basketball they played against the Heat during the regular season.

"We have to figure out what we did wrong here late in the game, try to clean those things up. I thought we defended them tough," forward Paul Pierce said. "We saw some good, positive things. Unlike Game 1, Game 2 we played with a lot more grit, made it tough on them. The only thing we've got to do right now is try to get two at home."

Production from the bench

While some of their starters struggled, Brooklyn got some production early from its bench players, who combined for 37 points led by forward Mirza Teletovic's career postseason-high 20 points.

But Teletovic got 15 of those points in the first half, before the Heat adjusted.

"I think it is normal once you make four, five (3-pointers) they kind of try to stay with you more," Teletovic said. "If they stay with me, someone else will be open and that's what we want."

Rebounding edge

The Nets may have outrebounded Miami 43-36, but after Thursday's loss, Brooklyn's players were more concerned with the three rebounds they didn't grab late on Miami's big fourth-quarter possession.

"That was a killer. We couldn't come up with the rebound. It was almost as if we just didn't have the energy or the effort down the stretch," Joe Johnson said.

(c)2014 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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