Nets plan tougher defense against Heat

Jason Kidd looks on during a shootaround at
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Jason Kidd looks on during a shootaround at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on May 7, 2014.(Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.)

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MIAMI - Those nonstop scenes of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade swooping into the lane Tuesday night had to be stomach-churning, a bothersome thing for a Nets team that only hours earlier prided itself on having multiple defenders to throw at the Heat's version of Batman and Robin.

James and Wade got virtually any shot they wanted in their 107-86 Game 1 victory, easily knifing into the Nets' porous defense almost as if they were playing at a South Beach YMCA against a bunch of retirees. So shoring up their scheme is at the forefront of the adjustments the Nets must make if they're going to have any shot at beating the Heat in their Eastern Conference semifinal series, which resumes with Game 2 Thursday night.

"We know a lot of the things we did wrong defensively," Deron Williams said before practice at AmericanAirlines Arena Wednesday. "We made a lot of mistakes in our defensive game plan, we gave up 52 points in the paint, so of course that's going to be the focus going forward, keeping them out of the lane and keeping them from getting so many layups, so many easy baskets. Because when they do that, they get a lot of confidence, and then they start hitting shots from everywhere."

Get this: Forty of Miami's 74 shots came in the paint, leading to those 52 points inside. Perhaps none was more of a crowd pleaser than James' drive to the hoop during Miami's 15-2 third-quarter run, a stretch that turned a three-point game into a 16-point edge for the Heat, a deficit much too cavernous for the Nets.

James, following an Andray Blatche turnover from the previous possession, took his time in setting up Blatche, lowering his head and bulldozing his way into the lane, pin- balling off the Nets' 6-11 big man and nailing a six-footer. James pounded his chest after that play, fired up the fans and served notice that he wasn't about to be corralled by anyone.

The red paint establishing the interior was like an entrance leading to one of South Florida's express lanes, welcoming patrons who'd rather avoid the rush-hour traffic.

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"That was our problem," Blatche said. "We had too many lanes for them. We let them do pretty much whatever they wanted to do. [Thursday] we got to step up to the challenge and be super aggressive on defense."

A little intimidation wouldn't hurt, either. Devoid of a major interior presence since Brook Lopez's season-ending injury, the Nets have to rely more on positioning and defensive responsibilities to protect the paint. Still, there's always a way they can make the Heat pay if they continuously try to maneuver themselves in for a high-percentage shot.

"We've got to lay some wood as far as being aggressive, hitting first and making sure they feel us," Shaun Livingston said. "And we've got to help each other. We just had breakdowns, guys back-cutting, getting easy layups.

"Things happen, especially in a Game 1 situation, coming off the way we came from Toronto. It's a feeling-out process. They cause a lot of attention, LeBron and D-Wade, and we got caught ball-watching a little bit, and then we are cross-matching in transition. So we've got to get better at getting back and getting to the body and getting to our man."

Wade expects the Nets to switch up their plan, considering the leaks that kept springing up on Tuesday.

"I think the biggest thing we can to do is we're going to have to make adjustments to their adjustments and do it fast," Wade said.

"They're going to come out, obviously they're going to see some things that worked that maybe they didn't do much, and we have to come out immediately and make adjustments to that. So that's going to be it right there. This whole series right here between two veteran teams is going to be who can make adjustments the fastest."

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