Less than a minute later in the third, James shifted into his locomotive gear in transition, buried his shoulder into Andray Blatche and scored easily on a drive that was part of a 15-2 Miami run.
James immediately began jawing and pounding his chest.
The Nets? They looked like they wanted no part of this fight with the defending champs.
In Tuesday’s Game 1, the best player on the planet reminded the Nets they are no longer in Toronto. And this certainly isn’t the regular season anymore, either.
Joe Johnson may like the way the Nets match up with the Heat. But in Game 1, the Nets were completely outmatched and outclassed by the champs in a 107-86 rout at American Airlines Arena.
Brooklyn didn’t look anything like the only team to ever complete a four-game, regular-season sweep of James. Perhaps that’s because the Heat didn’t look anything like the team the Nets beat in the regular season.
The Nets were assembled with the dual goal of beating the Heat and winning a title. They wanted Miami in the playoffs. And in the series opener, the $200 million team looked softer than ice cream melting in the South Beach sun.
Jason Kidd watched as his team allowed the Heat to score 52 points in the paint and shoot 56.8 percent. In other words, the Nets offered zero resistance inside the paint.
“Our defensive game plan wasn’t executed at all,” said Deron Williams, whose 17 points and 7-of-10 shooting was wasted by poor defense. “We made a lot of defensive mistakes. We allowed them to roam free. I know I got beat on a lot of backdoor cuts.
“It was just kind of the theme of the night: Just layups, layups, layups.”
Pierce said before Game 1 that there was a “dislike” between him and James from all their playoff battles in the past, since the two are chasing the same thing -- a title.
It would have been nice to see a hint of that "dislike" on display inside the paint. Charles Oakley would have been disgusted with the fact there wasn’t a single hard foul delivered on James or Dwyane Wade.
This is the playoffs, and yet James barely broke a sweat, scoring just 22 points and going to the line only two times. Wade had 14 points and didn’t even make a trip to the line.
On the other side, Pierce scored eight points and didn’t play in the fourth, with the game mostly out of reach. Garnett played a minute in the final quarter but finished the game scoreless -- the first time he failed to score a point in 139 playoff games.
The Nets looked every bit like a team that needed a series-winning block to survive the inexperienced Raptors, while the Heat looked like a two-time defending champion coming off an eight-day rest between series.
And the Nets didn’t just run into a rested two-time champion. They ran into a motivated one. How many times did the Heat hear about how the Nets had their number in the regular season, Pierce and Garnett play James harder than anybody else in the postseason, and the Nets present all sorts of matchup problems? Probably about as many times as they scored in the paint in Game 1.
“You got to think about it,” Garnett said. “If you are a competitor, and you keep hearing it over and over, and you got time to rest and sit back and watch the team and continue to hear that, you got to think competitive juices are going to [take over].”
“I just thought with that being kind of gasoline on the fire, they came out running at home like they were supposed to,” he added.
Now the Nets must respond with some fight or this series will be over a lot quicker than anybody thought. Kidd has to make the necessary adjustments after Erik Spoelstra had his team coming out in attack mode. Garnett and Pierce have to inject some toughness into this team.
“It was a three-point game at the half, fellas,” said Pierce, who like many of the Nets remained confident after the blowout loss. “We are not overreacting. We feel like we still can get a game in this building.”
LeBron bullied the Nets in Game 1. The Nets offered no resistance. Now they must retaliate in Game 2.
Time to find out what Brooklyn is made of.