NEW YORK -- There’s dominance, and then there’s dominance, and LeBron James looked like he was finally going to have one of those absolutely dominant performances.
Not like the back-to-back 22-point efforts he produced in Games 1 and 2. Those were really impressive, if not memorable. But this was different. This was dominance.
James had scored 16 points in the first quarter on Saturday, missing only one of his first seven field-goal attempts. And the way he was dominating the Brooklyn Nets, converting three-point plays seemingly at will, it felt as though it was going to be a special night.
But the Nets clamped down defensively on the four-time MVP/two-time NBA champion the rest of the way, holding him to 12 points on 2-for-8 shooting over the final three quarters.
And by the end of the night, James had failed to reach the 30-point mark, and the Nets had earned themselves a 104-90 victory over the King’s Miami Heat in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“LeBron had his good numbers and shot the ball well, but we limited the other guys and that’s gonna be key for us,” Paul Pierce said.
James (28 points on 8-for-15 shooting) got his. Dwyane Wade (20 points on 9-for-18 shooting) did too.
But the rest of Miami’s players combined to score 42 points and shoot 40 percent from the field. The Heat scored just 33 points in the second and third quarters, as the Nets pulled away, draining a franchise single-game playoff record 15 3-pointers.
Points in the paint had been decidedly in Miami’s favor in the first two games of the series. But in Game 3, it was Heat 26, Nets 26. Only eight of Miami’s paint points came in the second half on 4-for-11 shooting.
“We just loaded up, obviously,” Kevin Garnett said of Brooklyn’s defensive strategy on James. “We know that they are going to get their volume of shots, and we tried to control their B guys, the guys coming off the bench, and I thought we did that. We kept Ray Allen under control at times and we built ourselves a lead.”
Allen, who had scored 32 points in Games 1 and 2, shot 2-for-6 from the field in Game 3. Chris Bosh had just 12 points and five rebounds on 5-for-11 shooting.
The Nets also controlled the glass, outrebounding the Heat, 43-27 and giving up only five offensive boards.
James got going against Pierce, hitting four of his five first-quarter shots. But in the final three quarters, James went 0-for-2 from the field when guarded by Pierce. Overall, James is shooting 50 percent when guarded by Pierce in the series (8-for-16).
“It’s a 48-minute game,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said. “I’m not counting how many times you score. I’m looking at how many shots he’s taking and he was making them in the first quarter. We didn’t lose patience and we stuck with the game-plan and we found a way to win.”