Brooklyn Nets fans across the country screamed “Pass the ball Joe!” as Joe Jesus fumbled away the final possession of 2014, to give the Miami Heat a 96-94 victory and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
With less than 5 seconds left, the Nets could barely get off the inbound pass to Joe Johnson, thanks to some swarming Miami defense. Johnson took the ball into the teeth of the defense, going to work against LeBron James, until Ray Allen reached in and knocked the ball away at the foul line. The Nets didn’t even get a shot attempt.
Execution under pressure proved to be the difference in the contest. Even though Brooklyn is just as seasoned as Miami, the Nets again crumbled in the fourth like a bunch of wide-eyed rookies. The Nets had an eight-point lead with 4:49 left in the game, and then proceeded to miss their next nine shots. The Heat went on a 12-0 run capped by Ray Allen’s only three-pointer of the game with a 32 seconds left to put Miami up 94-91.
Joe Johnson hit a three of his own, after LeBron went 1-2 on a trip to free throw line, giving the Nets one final shot to go for the win, or send the contest into overtime. For the second time in two days the referees were directly involved in the final moments of the game.
With less than ten seconds left, Paul Pierce picked up his dribble by the three-point line when James hacked him across the wrist sending the ball out of bounds. The ball clearly touched Pierce last, but the referees avoided the backlash that occurred after the Reggie Jackson play in Game 5 of Thunder-Clippers series, by awarding Brooklyn the ball. The Nets couldn’t capitalize on the second chance.
Johnson was spectacular outside of the final few minutes. He had a game high 31 points and torched James for the first three quarters, raining in tough jumper after tough jumper. Once James locked in defensively late in the fourth, Johnson’s confidence became his downfall. His tunnel vision doomed the Nets; a couple of extra passes down the stretch could have saved their season.
The Nets got great offense when they shifted Miami’s defense. When Johnson drew attention, Pierce and Williams were able to capitalize going for 19 and 17 points respectively, but their ball movement became stagnant in the fourth. Kevin Garnett had only two points in what may have been his last playoff game. He didn’t give any comments to the media.
First the first time in the series, Dwyane Wade led the Heat going for 20 points in the first half and finishing with 28 for the game. LeBron actually led the Heat in scoring with 29, but shot 6-14 from the field with 15 of his points coming from the charity stripe. A massive 31-15 free throw attempt disparity favored Miami greatly. Also, on a night where Allen only hit one three-pointer, Chris Bosh came up big with 12 of his 16 points from beyond the arc.
The Miami Heat are back in the Eastern Conference finals for the fourth consecutive year.