MIAMI -- The Brooklyn Nets were right where they wanted to be.
But then in a five-minute stretch, every single one of the Nets’ flaws popped up like unwelcome blemishes.
Game 2 was over in minutes and so may be this best-of-seven series with the Miami Heat.
Miami exposed all the Nets’ flaws and used a late 10-2 run to come away with a 94-82 victory at AmericanAirlines Arena. The Heat have put the Nets and this series in a virtual headlock with a 2-0 lead that feels more like 3-0.
Even if the Nets somehow protect home and find their way back to South Beach tied 2-2, it’s incredibly difficult to envision Brooklyn winning this series. And all you need for evidence was Thursday's brutal fourth-quarter ending.
The Heat have yet to play their best game, and the champs really haven’t had to. That's because the Nets certainly have a lot of blemishes for a $200 million team.
Where do we begin?
The Nets have a max player who hasn’t delivered max offensive production in Deron Williams, who picked the worst possible time to go scoreless in a playoff game.
Without Brook Lopez, the Nets are small and rebound-challenged. They look old and unathletic next to the Heat. And Father Time looks like it is rapidly catching up to Kevin Garnett faster than the Nets hoped. All the while, Kidd, a rookie coach in his first playoffs, is trying to match wits with Erik Spoelstra, who has two rings and counting.
Kidd’s job would be made easier if his star point guard could make a basket. When you play Miami's big three, you need star power to somehow come close to matching South Beach’s title-toting trio. And the Nets’ youngest and most-talented star vanished in Game 2.
To Williams' credit, he was active and had seven rebounds and six assists. But he missed all nine of his shots from the field, and the Nets just can’t survive without any scoring from their former All-Star point guard. What max player goes from scoring 17 aggressive points in Game 1 to scoring zero in Game 2?
Kidd, Paul Pierce and Garnett need Williams to match either James or at least Wade’s production in this series. Through two games, King James has had to score only a livable 22 points in each game to win. Wade scored just 14 points, and the Heat won by 12.
Now, we have to see if Williams will recover or suffer severe damage to his confidence.
“I’ll definitely be thinking about it [the next two days before Game 3],” Williams admitted of his scoreless outing.
“I just didn’t hit any shots,” he explained. “I’ll still do the same thing as far as when I’m doubled, make the right pass, get into the lane, attack in transition. I just couldn’t buy a bucket and didn’t get to the free-throw line either.”
The richest roster money can buy also can’t acquire a rebound when it desperately needs one, either. With an injured Lopez watching on the bench, the Nets have no dominant paint presence.
Look no further than the back-breaking Heat possession that saw Miami haul in three offensive rebounds, giving James, the best player on the planet, three consecutive shots before he finally scored a layup to put the Nets down 89-79 with 1:59 remaining.
“That was a killer,” Joe Johnson said of a Heat possession that lasted 1:39.
Garnett sat and watched the whole sequence go down from the bench. The big man had 12 rebounds but offensively looked shot, scoring just four total points and missing 3-of-4 shots in the fourth.
With the Nets down five with under six minutes left, Johnson missed a 3-pointer. Garnett grabbed the rebound but then missed a close hook shot that he probably has made a million times in his life.
Kidd played the 37-year-old nearly seven minutes in the fourth, hoping to find the Fountain of Youth in South Florida.
Unfortunately, the big man’s offensive game looked spent.
“I’m not happy with my play right now,” said Garnett, who routinely hits jumper after jumper in practices and shootarounds. “I’m trying to get in a flow and a rhythm. Try to bring something. It’s just frustrating.”
Pierce scored 13 points, but his offense was offset by his former teammate, Ray Allen. Allen continues to torment his old Celtics teammates as the sharpshooter had 13 points and eight rebounds. If Allen is rebounding like that, the Nets are done.
This series shifts to Brooklyn, where the Nets have a chance to stay alive and somehow get back to even ground with two wins.
But the Nets have no shot unless Williams starts playing like he belongs on the court with the galaxy of Miami All-Stars. And then they have to find a way to rebound when it matters, get some vintage performances from Garnett and Pierce, keep LeBron and Wade from exploding, and hope Miami still doesn’t play its best game.
In other words, this series right now seems about as out of the Nets’ reach as a critical fourth-quarter rebound.