NEW YORK -- Kevin Garnett and every single inch of his 37-year-old body went crashing into some of the most expensive courtside seats at Barclays Center for a loose ball.
Later, Paul Pierce summoned everything in his 36-year-old body and swatted a LeBron James shot inside before walking, slowly and with swagger, down the floor next to James with his chest practically puffed out.
During the second half on Friday night, the two former Boston Celtics charged with transforming the Brooklyn Nets delivered a lesson to their new teammates on what it takes to defeat the two-time defending NBA champion Heat.
In their first meeting against James as Nets, Pierce and Garnett set the tone after halftime and lifted Brooklyn to a stirring 101-100 victory over the Heat in the Nets' home opener.
This was more than just a victory in early November. It's the kind of victory the Nets needed as they search to mold their new identity and form the type of chemistry the Heat have found the past couple of seasons. The first step is making the Nets believe they can be contenders -- and they took a big step toward establishing that mentality Friday.
The Nets (1-1) snapped a 13-game losing streak to Miami in what certainly felt like a statement game -- despite it being Game No. 2.
"Deron [Williams] told us that before, I didn't really know that stat," Garnett said of the skid. "What they've done up until this point, up until this year, doesn't really matter. It's history. I think we showed growth."
"We're trying to obviously set a new creed here, a new culture," Garnett added. "And I guess you start with getting the bears and monkeys off your back. So I guess this was a good one to get off."
Pierce did the heavy lifting as he came out of halftime noticeably more aggressive, scoring 17 of his 19 points in the second half, including two key free throws with 7 seconds remaining.
Pierce did his best to match James. As in their battles in the past, Pierce did not back down from the league's MVP. Pierce (19 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and one surprising block) tried to match James' 26 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. James, though, shot just 2-for-8 when guarded by Pierce, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Pierce scored 11 points in a third quarter that saw the Nets go on a 24-7 run to build a 16-point lead. He made tough shots from his usual arsenal of pump-fakes and deceptive first steps, and he drew fouls to make free throws. He knocked down the two free throws in the waning seconds to give the Nets a four-point lead they would need to hold off a late Miami charge.
"Truth," Garnett said. "I always call P, 'Picasso.' He's like a beautiful painting, a beautiful painting I get to watch every night."
"He carried us for a stretch," Garnett added. "And when we needed a bucket he found a way to get it."
Garnett (six points) didn't score after halftime but he grabbed five rebounds, helped the Nets defend and energized his team by diving into the stands for a third-quarter loose ball as if it were a playoff game.
Stats & Info: LeBron James Offense by Defender -- Friday vs. Nets
"That was electric," said Jason Terry, who came along with Garnett and Pierce in the trade from the Celtics. "We feed off that. Kevin is our spiritual, emotional leader. When he does that at his age, how can you not go out there and play hard every possession for a guy like that?"
"I just wanted to just play my game more in the [second half]," Pierce said. "I felt in the first half I was a little too passive."
Pierce and Garnett have given the Nets an attitude makeover, starting with the message they tried sending to James in the preseason, when Pierce delivered a hard foul. Garnett also told James to mind his own business after James wondered why Pierce and Garnett didn't catch the same kind of heat for their departure from Boston as Ray Allen did when he left via free agency.
On Friday night, the veterans continued their attitude adjustment -- and the Nets followed their lead.
"We made it a point [to the younger Nets] that they don't like us, we don't like them," Terry said of the former Celtics' rivalry with the Heat. "Each individual guy has his reasons why. I have mine, dating so far back.
"They are the champions," Terry continued. "Nobody likes the champions. They're tough. It is going to be hard to dethrone them. [But] we know what we have to do when we play against them."