Nets start strong but fade in 102-89 loss to Heat

Andray Blatche passes the ball past Miami Heat

Andray Blatche passes the ball past Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem during the first half of a game in Miami. (Dec. 1, 2012) (Credit: AP)

MIAMI -- Gerald Wallace was having none of it. The small forward isn't so sure the Heat is that much better than his Nets, and he was almost incredulous at that very thought.

"What gap?" Wallace said after the Nets succumbed to the Heat's second-half defensive pressure Saturday night in a 102-89 loss to Miami. "I think we are just as good as them. We know what we have to do offensively. We were in the game pretty much until we started with unforced turnovers and giving them easy baskets.

"We controlled this game. We had an opportunity to win and we should have won."

But they didn't. The Nets' winning streak ended at five games and they failed to get the payback they were looking for after that 30-point pasting Miami put on them here last month. After an encouraging first half, the Nets (11-5) were totally outplayed by Miami in the final 24 minutes and were outscored 52-30.

Andray Blatche led the Nets with 20 points. Joe Johnson finished with 12 points, shooting 5-for-14. Deron Williams struggled from the floor, too, going 3-for-11, and had 10 points to go with 12 assists. Jerry Stackhouse had 11 points off the bench.

Dwyane Wade scored 34 points, making 14 of 20 shots, and had seven assists. LeBron James had 21 points, nine rebounds and six assists.

Miami (12-3) turned up the pressure defensively after halftime and erased the Nets' 59-50 halftime lead midway through the third quarter. They forced the Nets into six turnovers -- and a season-high-tying 19 overall -- which allowed the Heat to get out on fast breaks and push the tempo more in its favor.

Miami scored 10 points off those third-quarter miscues and outscored the Nets 32-19 in the quarter, seizing control on the way to their 12th straight win over the Nets. That's why the loss stung.

"It does because we were right where we wanted to be but we just couldn't put them away," Joe Johnson said. "We knew it was going to be tough, but the second half really killed us."

Added Wallace: "We had this game."

Wade scored 12 points in the quarter, igniting a 10-0-run with back-to-back layups midway through the third, and the Heat erased the Nets' 73-65 lead. The Heat finished the quarter on a 17-5 run to take an 82-78 lead into the fourth quarter.

"We just have to be more disciplined," Williams said. "When we get up 12, 14 points, we can't relax. That's when we have to hunker down and get more stops. It's when we have to execute better and take care of the ball, and we didn't do that tonight."

The Nets didn't help themselves at the free-throw line in the second half, either. After going 10-for-12 in the first half, they made only one of their first seven attempts after halftime and went 17-for-27 overall. They also never found the touch from three-point range, misfiring on 22 of 28 attempts.

"We didn't shoot the three well tonight," Nets coach Avery Johnson said. "We missed probably 10 wide-open threes. We didn't shoot our free throws. We didn't take care of the ball. That put a lot of pressure on our defense."

"We win this game, maybe we get a little bit of the big head," Stackhouse said. "So I think with losing it, we'll go back and have a couple of days to work on some things, iron some things out and get better."

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