MIAMI (AP) — A debated block at the buzzer. A season sweep of the NBA champions.
Hello, Brooklyn — the only NBA team this season to go unbeaten against the Miami Heat. Mason Plumlee denied LeBron James' dunk attempt at the rim with 2 seconds left, and the Nets finished off a four-game sweep of Miami by beating the Heat 88-87 on Tuesday night.
With Miami down by one and time running out, Rashard Lewis somehow got a pass from underneath the basket to James, who rose as Plumlee jumped to contest the play. Replays showed Joe Johnson made some contact with James as he started his move and that Plumlee hit the four-time MVP's hand on the dunk try, but the Heat never got the call they wanted.
"My initial thought was to just foul and make him earn it at the free-throw line," Plumlee said. That's precisely what the Heat thought he did. "He grabbed my right hand," James said. "He didn't do it on purpose, but he got my right hand."
Said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra: "It was a foul from my vantage point. But what can you do?" Time expired, and just like that, Miami's lead in the Eastern Conference was down to a half-game — one in the loss column — over Indiana.
Johnson scored 19 points, reserve Marcus Thornton had 16 and Paul Pierce scored 14 for the Nets. Plumlee had two of his three blocks in the last 2 minutes, the first of them on a short try by Chris Bosh that Miami felt should have been whistled for goaltending.
Still, his late work couldn't get Plumlee a one-night respite from rookie duty. "He still got to come in here and carry the bags and get the towels," Pierce said. Final score of the four Brooklyn-Miami games: Nets 389, Heat 377. Brooklyn won three of the games by a single point, becoming the third team in NBA history to have that many narrowest-of-margin wins over an opponent in the same regular season and the first team ever to do so without playing more than four times.
And the fourth went to double overtime. All four could have gone Miami's way. None of them did. "They're a good team," Spoelstra said. "They're one of the hotter teams since All-Star break. Every single one of these games, however you want to slice it, however you get to that point, there are plays to be made in the fourth quarter. And for whatever reason, they've made more plays."
Brooklyn became the first team in the last two years to sweep the Heat. Miami was the only team in the league to beat every team last season and would have repeated that feat with a win Tuesday. James had 29 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for the Heat, who got 12 points from Bosh and 10 from Norris Cole.
Up by one, Johnson took a jumper that was way off with 11 seconds left. Miami has been down by one in the final seconds twice in the last couple weeks, with James not getting a chance at the last shot either time.
This time he did, and Miami still couldn't break through. Each of the last three Heat losses have come by a single point — and they've dropped six in all by that margin this season. "That's just basketball," Nets coach Jason Kidd said. "You have the best player in the world going against a rookie and we got lucky."
Thornton's steal and layup with 3:27 left put the Nets up one, before James answered seconds later with a dunk, part of a final quarter that featured seven lead changes. Deron Williams missed a pair of free throws with 2:17 left and Brooklyn down a point, but Plumlee blocked Bosh's layup on the next Miami possession. Thornton hit a 3 from the right corner to put the Nets on top, Johnson followed with a beat-the-shot-clock score from the lane, and Brooklyn was suddenly up four with 1:01 left.
A mere 5½ seconds later, the lead was down to one. James drove past Johnson and got fouled by Pierce on the way to a three-point play, getting Miami within 86-85. The teams alternated baskets on their next possessions, but the Nets wouldn't trail again.
Miami's Dwyane Wade (hamstring) missed his seventh straight game — his 26th absence this season for the Heat, who were also without Greg Oden (back) and Udonis Haslem (stomach virus). Brooklyn sat Kevin Garnett, who is expected to play at Orlando on Wednesday.
NOTES: Alonzo Mourning, the Heat player-turned-executive whose induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame was announced Monday, received a video tribute and loud ovation during the first half. ... U.S. Olympic speed skater Eddy Alvarez, a Miami native and silver medalist from the Sochi Games, was part of the sellout crowd.