MIAMI: LeBron James led the way with 22 points as two-time defending NBA champions Miami opened their second-round playoff series against Brooklyn with an emphatic 107-86 triumph.
The Heat had lost all four regular-season clashes with the Nets, but they had Brooklyn’s number in this one, pulling away in third quarter and cruising to a victory that gave them a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series.
James connected on 10 of 15 shots from the floor and pulled down five rebounds on Tuesday, leading five Heat players who scored in double figures.
Ray Allen contributed 19 points off the bench, Chris Bosh added 15 points with 11 rebounds, Dwyane Wade poured in 14 points and Mario Chalmers chipped in 12 for Miami.
Miami had led by three points at halftime, but out-scored the Nets 33-23 in a third period in which the Heat made 12 of 17 shots from the floor for a 70.6 shooting percentage.
It was a far cry from the teams’ tussles in the regular season. Although the Nets won all four of those, three of those wins were by just one point, and the fourth was in double-overtime.
Deron Williams and Joe Johnson scored 17 points apiece for Brooklyn, but Paul Pierce put up just eight and Kevin Garnett was scoreless in just under 16 minutes on the floor.
“It was great that we were able to come out the way we did after being off eight days,” said James, whose Heat hadn’t played since sweeping Charlotte in the first round last week.
The Nets, meanwhile, needed seven games to get past Toronto in the first round.
“I liked the energy, the activity,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Guys were competing like that the last couple of days in practice.”
Allen’s 19 points included four three-pointers. James said he didn’t think Allen was spurred by the playoff clash against his former Boston teammates Garnett and Pierce.
“I think he’s just focused on the job at hand,” James said. “The boost that we got from him tonight, we needed that. We need that punch off the bench.”
Overall the Heat shot 56.8 percent out-scored Brooklyn in the paint 52-28.
“I think the most important thing was the rhythm we were in,” James said. “We were in attack mode and we didn’t turn the ball over … We got what we wanted.”
The Heat will try to extend their advantage when they host game two on Thursday.
The Eastern Conference semi-finals resume on Wednesday when the top-seeded Indiana Pacers host the Washington Wizards in game two of their series.
The Pacers will be looking to rebound on their home floor after the Wizards grabbed the opener 102-96 on Monday. AFP