MIAMI -- On Monday night, the Miami Heat accomplished something that no other team in this postseason had managed; getting booed by your own fans less than eight minutes into the opening quarter. Come on, even the Grizzlies inspired some hope before being swept for the third consecutive time.
|Antoine Walker ponders his sloppiness in stunned silence. (AP)|
The eventual final score, 100-88, doesn't encompass how dominant the Nets were. The crowd filing out in a mass exodus with 9:19 remaining does.
At that point, Shaquille O'Neal had missed another hook shot, and the late run to make the result cosmetically respectable was still a few minutes away.
A few hours earlier, Miami supporters were still arriving when Nenad Krstic scored easily on a jump hook to give New Jersey a 12-2 lead barely two minutes in. You have to feel for those who ponied up their reserve cash to come root on the Heat only to see the game out of hand before they even spotted an usher.
So, how is it possible for a supposedly elite team to go down double-digits before the first media timeout? It's simple. Everything must go against you. Everything.
Udonis Haslem picks up a ticky-tack foul on Vince Carter's first scoring drive, indicating that the refs weren't going to let much go. O'Neal gets a pair of offensive fouls whistled on him for the same indiscretion, lowering his shoulder and spinning into Jason Collins with his elbow leading him in. He was on the bench within five minutes.
Antoine Walker came out with his Mr. Hyde face on, throwing the ball around carelessly and being generally disruptive of his own offense. That's the facet of his game coaches have always dreaded about Employee No. 8. Sometimes he tries to do too much, and with four turnovers in the first 12 minutes, he once again failed in his attempt to put the entire team on his back.
Even Dwyane Wade looked a bit shaky, as his 9-for-15 performance at the free throw line would indicate. It was a collective breakdown, the only thing all night that was a total team effort.
"We got our asses kicked," said Alonzo Mourning, who played just six minutes. "There were witnesses. Everybody saw it."
Still, as much as Miami self-destructed, the Nets operated perfectly. From the opening minute, New Jersey made sure its opponent never had a chance. They started 19-for-25, unheard of for a team that relies on getting to the basket and flourishing in transition.
Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson -- typically as predictable from long range as this weekend's lottery numbers -- combined to hit 11 of their first 12, raining in 3-pointers and wide open jumpers to get the lead as high as 22 in the first half. Kidd's 17 points in the opening half were more than he'd scored in any outing against the Pacers.
Lawrence Frank's team came out and blindsided the Heat with their execution. Before the game, Miami probably wouldn't have minded if Kidd and Jefferson were attacking from the perimeter instead of driving toward the rim, but that quickly became fool's gold once shot after shot started going in.