NEWARK -- Just their luck. The Nets had reason to hope it was going to be more of a fair fight, what with Dwyane Wade out with a bruised left foot and the possibility that LeBron James would take another day off to rest his sprained left ankle. Instead, the diagnosis was just another broken dream for the Nets.
Once James set both his healthy foot and recovering one on the floor, the Nets knew the trouble they were in. James totaled 22 first-quarter points to outscore the Nets in that period and propel the Heat to a 101-90 win at the Prudential Center Saturday night.
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"If I feel like I'm good to go, then I'm going to go out and play my game," said James, who finished with 32. "I'm not going to give it any restrictions. I'll just try to do the things I do on the court. I was able to get a couple breakaways, [get] some easy points."
After the first quarter, the Nets kept an eye on him, and he scored only 10 more the rest of the way.
"I just play the game the right way," James said of his lack of scoring after the quick start. "If I see a double-team, I give my guys looks. Early on, they played me one-on-one and I had it going. For the rest of the game, they started doubling me more in the post and guys started getting open."
James made all seven of his field-goal attempts and shot 8-for-9 from the free-throw line in the first quarter as Miami took a 31-18 lead. He drew boos from the sellout crowd of 18,711 but he also got the loudest cheers, such as when he made emphatic dunks or when he leaped high above the rest of the players to tap in an offensive rebound.
The Nets (2-7) and Heat (8-1) did have one thing in common. Each was coming off a satisfying victory, with the Nets having beaten the Raptors Friday night and the Heat taking a dramatic three-overtime game in Atlanta on Thursday without James or Wade.
"When they hit their threes [the Nets were just 10-for-33 from long range], they can really change the game," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Deron Williams really creates a lot of those opportunities on pick-and-rolls in the open court."
Spoelstra's father, Jon, once was the Nets' president and wrote a book, "Ice to the Eskimos: How to Market a Product Nobody Wants."
The elder Spoelstra detailed how he had wanted to change the Nets' karma by switching the team name to Swamp Dragons. But Williams and the Brooklyn-bound Nets were swamped this time.
Despite a three-point shot by Williams that drew the Nets within 10 nearly eight minutes into the third quarter, they never seriously challenged.
As a team, the Nets shot only 33.7 percent from the floor and Williams was the main culprit, finishing 4-for-16 overall.
"With Brook Lopez out, it's going to be tough for a little bit," James said. "With him and Kris Humphries in the interior, it definitely helps out a lot because Brook is a proven scorer. Those guys are going to continue to play hard and hopefully try to weather the storm until he gets back."