The Brooklyn Nets and two-time defending champion Miami Heat have played four extremely close games against each other this season. Tuesday night's final regular season matchup may have been the closest of all.
With the fourth-quarter margin never more than four points in either direction, the Heat cut the Nets' lead to 88-87 on a Chris Bosh dunk with 34 seconds remaining in regulation. After a badly missed Joe Johnson three-pointer, the Heat held the ball with 10 seconds on the clock and a chance to win with any basket in transition. Not surprisingly, the ball ended up in the hands of uber-star LeBron James. What came next was remarkable in several respects. Check out the video below:
Nets fans saw the following: a game-saving block from rookie big man Mason Plumlee. Heat fans probably disagreed, because any number of fouls could have been called on Brooklyn players. Both Johnson and Marcus Thornton appeared to reach in before the play at the rim (which would have led to two free throws), and Plumlee seemed to catch LeBron's hand when the two met at the hoop. Regardless of these opinions, Brooklyn left the court with an 88-87 win and a season sweep of Miami.
It's difficult to exaggerate just how close those four match ups were. Three of Brooklyn's wins came by a single point each, and the fourth went to overtime (where the Nets won by nine). This wasn't even the first one that ended on a last-second defensive play by a Nets role player. With a few different bounces, the Heat could have gone 4-0 against the Nets instead of the other way around.
Even apart from the tight result, this game doesn't figure to say much about either team's prospects should they face off in the postseason. Several key players sat out, including Miami's Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem and Brooklyn's Kevin Garnett and Andray Blatche. It's possible that, if those players had been active, Plumlee wouldn't even have been on the court to deny James. This is not to say that the game did not matter to the East playoff picture — the Heat are just a half-game ahead of the floundering Indiana Pacers for the conference's top seed and the fifth-place Nets moved to within two games of the Toronto Raptors for the third seed.
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