The box score might as well have been a hospital report for the Nets, who were physically beaten and run over by a visiting Miami team that frequently was serenaded by chants of "Let’s go Heat" on their way to a 106-93 victory Wednesday night at Barclays Center.
The numbers were a toxic stew that underscored the Nets’ early-season problems against teams that outmatch them physically. The Heat outrebounded the Nets by 62-42, outscored them in the paint, 48-34, outscored them on second-chance points by a whopping 31-4 margin and took 11 more field-goal attempts.
"We’ve talked about it a lot," Nash said of the rebounding and second-chance points deficit. "It’s an Achilles heel for us giving up offensive rebounds . . . Obviously tonight, 17 [to 4 by the Nets] is way too many.
"You’ve just got to want it, and you’ve got to make it a priority . . . We’re going to give up size to a lot of teams. It’s important for us to be really diligent and get in there and not give away a bunch of possessions where we’re all leaning into offense before we’ve got the ball."
Somehow, the Nets still managed to cut an 11-point Heat fourth-quarter lead to 90-87 when Kevin Durant hit a three with 6:08 left. But the Heat finished the game on a 16-6 run to wrap it up.
Muscular center Bam Adebayo lead the Heat (3-1) with 24 points and had nine rebounds, and Jimmy Butler added 17 points and 14 boards. Only three Nets (2-3) scored in double figures topped by 25 points and 11 rebounds from Durant, 15 from Joe Harris and 14 from James Harden.
For the Nets, the challenge at the outset was to match the Heat’s physicality. Just before the game, the Nets’ defense suffered a blow when it was announced Nic Claxton would sit out with a non-COVID-19 illness. He was a key defensive presence in the first four games, but his absence meant starter Bruce Brown and backups DeAndre’ Bembry and Paul Millsap had to play larger roles.
It didn’t take long for the game to turn into a bit of a slugfest.
Tyler Herro came off the bench to score seven points in a 12-0 Heat run for a 27-18 lead late in the first period. That margin grew to 12 points early in the second as the Nets were getting hammered on the offensive boards.
But after a scoreless first period, Harden suddenly sprang to life, scoring 11 straight Nets points, including a four-point play. To pull within three. That was the beginning of an extended 22-8 run, including six points from Durant, that gave the Nets a 51-49 halftime lead.
If there was any redeeming factor for the Nets, it was that they held the Heat to 39.6% shooting overall and a mere 27.6% from three-point range. The problem was that their own numbers in those categories were 38.8% and 32.6% respectively.
"I like how we are playing defense the last couple of games," Durant said. "I like where our defense is trending. [On offense], I feel like we are generating good shots, but we are just not knocking them down. Defensively, outside of the rebounding, I think we were in front of them all night."
The Nets’ lead reached a high of eight points at 57-49 when Harris drained the three-pointer that gave him the franchise record of 814 threes, but the Heat took an 81-74 margin going to the fourth quarter and continued to dominate the boards.
"The consistent theme for the game was the second-chance opportunities," Harris said. "When the shot margin is as big as it was, it’s really hard to beat teams. That was a problem last year, and it’s been a problem a lot of this year so far."