Both Brooklyn and Miami were expected to compete for the Eastern Conference crown before the season started, and each suffered somewhat tumultuous stretches during the year.
The Nets started 10-21 after picking up Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from the Celtics, and many questioned whether first year head coach Jason Kidd had what it took to be a franchise's head man. Yet they managed to right the ship after the calendar turned to 2014 and closed the season on a 34-17 stretch to finish with a 44-38 mark. Brooklyn grabbed the six seed in the East and somehow survived a seven-game test from the upstart Toronto Raptors in the first round.
On the other hand, Miami just cruised throughout the regular season, taking care of business as you'd expect the two-time defending champs to do. However, after LeBron's 61-point explosion against Charlotte on March 3rd, the Heat limped to a 11-14 finish over their last 25 games. You'd think that might be something to be concerned about, but Miami recorded the only sweep of the first round over the Bobcats.
It still remains to be seen how Miami will respond when they play someone other than Charlotte, who has never beaten the Heat in the Big 3 era. And here come the Nets, who haven't lost to Miami yet this season.
The Heat seem to have a switch they can flip come playoff time and be the dominant team we all know them to be, and maybe they were just uninterested those last 25 games of the regular season.
But will that switch work as well as it needs to against a hungry and streaking Nets team?
Regular Season Series: Brooklyn 4-0
This was one of the stranger occurrences of the NBA season, but no one can question the Nets' success against Miami. They're just as deep (if not deeper) as the Heat, and their starting lineup is balanced with All-Stars as opposed to a concentrated Big 3. They make everyone on Miami work and exploit mismatches at positions not covered by LeBron, Wade, or Bosh.
It's been well documented since the Big 3 came together that the key to beating Miami is to be strong where they are: point guard and center. Enter Deron Williams, who at one point not to long ago was the best point guard on the planet.
He's regressed a good amount since becoming a Net, but that ability is still there and he has games where he is unstoppable. Brooklyn needs the good D-Will for the entire series if they're going to pull the upset.
Miami wins IF: They play the way they always have in the postseason with the Big 3.
Brooklyn wins IF: Deron Williams or Joe Johnson is the best guard on the court, Pierce's defense severely hampers LeBron, and Dwyane Wade's injury problems come back up.
Brooklyn sweeping the season series over Miami was no fluke, but there's no way they can have that same kind of success against the Heat in the postseason. It'll still be a long series and the Nets will have a very legitimate shot at pulling off the upset, but Miami is battle-tested and are just too good.
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