LeBron James spent most of his pregame media session talking about his good friend Johnny Manziel. Then he went out and proved he could take a hit -- several of them.
James was like a locomotive in the first quarter, running past, over and through the Nets en route to 16 points.
But he lost some of his steam and most of his effectiveness after that, and the Heat lost for the first time in seven games this postseason. The Nets routed the two-time defending champions, 104-90, at Barclays Center Saturday night.
The Heat still leads the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series 2-1. Afterward, James reflected on what happened and looked ahead to Game 4 Monday night.
"They played a better game than us," he said after finishing with 28 points. "Understanding that this is a series -- I've been a part of a lot of series, and you understand a series is never won in two games or three games. You move on to the next one.''
James got off to a ridiculous start. He hit six of his first seven shots and looked as if he would have one of those electrifying, demoralizing games that would put the Nets on the brink of elimination.
But James shot 2-for-8 and scored only 12 points in the final three quarters. In the game-changing third quarter, he shot 1-for-5.
It wasn't just James, though. It's just that everyone has come to expect him to lift his team in times like this, and he couldn't -- at either end. The Nets outscored Miami 26-14 in the third quarter -- "an awful quarter for us," Dwyane Wade said.
Ray Allen, whose energy and shot-making were major factors in the first two games, shot 2-for-6 and had nine points. The most noise he made came from a scuffle with Alan Anderson that resulted in a technical foul on each.
The Heat shot 8-for-24 from three-point range and continually gave up open threes to the Nets, who made Miami pay for it. They were 15-for-25 from outside the arc. "I don't think there was enough of a sense of urgency defensively," James said.
The Heat, which swept Charlotte in the opening round, had been the only unbeaten team in the playoffs. That had changed the narrative to this: The Heat knows how to turn it on when the real games start.
"It don't work that way," Wade said. "Obviously, we've been here before. We've won championships before. We've never won it by winning every game. You're going to have some adversity at some point."
Now the Heat has its first adversity this postseason, or at least its first real challenge.
Miami has experienced plenty in the past three seasons, including coming within an offensive rebound by Chris Bosh and the subsequent three-pointer by Allen of losing the title to the Spurs in six games last year. So Wade wasn't too worried after the Heat's first loss this postseason.
"We've been through everything," he said. "We've been up. We've been down. We've been through everything as a team. Our only job right now is to make sure we stay focused on what we need to do and play a lot better and more consistent, knowing we're going to get Brooklyn's best shot."