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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Nets and LeBron James agree: This is a series

Miami Heat's LeBron James deals against Nets' Paul

Miami Heat's LeBron James deals against Nets' Paul Pierce in the first quarter during Game 3 of their second round playoff series at Barclays Center on Saturday, May 10, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

For one night, all of the pieces fit.

The Nets' depth and versatility have been a mixed blessing at times, but the team emphatically displayed the good side of both last night in effectively saving its season.

Staring at the prospect of a 3-0 deficit against the Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Nets instead made it a series with a 104-90 victory at Barclays Center, using a little bit of everything to get the job done.

They had six players score in double figures, including Andray Blatche and Mirza Teletovic off the bench. They had nine play at least 18 minutes. They shot 15-for-25 (!) from three-point range.

They got 11 assists from much-maligned point guard Deron Williams. They had a 43-27 rebounding edge.

They recovered from a 16-point barrage by LeBron James in the first quarter, holding him to 12 thereafter, thanks to defense from the likes of Paul Pierce, Andrei Kirilenko and Teletovic.

Whether they can do it again in Game 4 Monday night or whether they merely succeeded in getting James angry remains to be seen.

But in the most consequential postseason sports event in Brooklyn since Game 7 of the 1956 World Series, the home team energized its fans and frustrated the three-time defending conference champs.

Rookie coach Jason Kidd has made some debatable moves in his complicated rotation of late, but on this night, it seemed everything he tried worked.

"The big thing about this team is we trust everyone,'' Kidd said as reporters asked him a series of questions that essentially covered each key player, because each had something worth talking about.

When someone asked Heat coach Erik Spoelstra about the Nets' depth, he said, "There are different guys who can hurt you.''

So efficient was the Nets' performance that they finished with 26 assists on 38 made field goals, which is a good way to the heart of a coach whose Hall of Fame playing career was spent at point guard.

The Nets led 51-49 after a closely contested first half in which they got a lift off the bench from Blatche, who had 13 points in nine minutes at halftime.

Then they took over with a 26-14 third-quarter surge fueled largely by Teletovic, who was 4-for-7 on three-point tries.

So now the Nets have an even bigger game Monday night than the one Saturday night, with a real chance to make this a very serious series indeed.

Evening it at 2 and forcing the Heat to sweat a bit is exactly what the Nets need as they continue to seek some playoff buzz in and around the city.

Game 3 was an excellent first step, made even better by having the owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, in the house for a rare visit.

Joe Johnson led the Nets -- as he often does -- with 19 points and shot 5-for-7 from three-point range, but as good as he was, he was only one of many.

What does he think about the Nets' many answers to basketball questions?

"I think it's huge for us; that means we have a great collective team effort, and you can't game-plan for that,'' he said. "When our bench is playing great, we're playing great as a team.''

The Nets now know they will be back in Miami for Game 5 Wednesday night, but if they get there trailing 3-1, they will be very long shots to advance. Win Game 4, though, and the Heat figures to start feeling the heat.

As he studied the statistics sheet, James noted some of the contrasts and said, "We're not going to win like that.''

Then he was asked what he was thinking when he left the game for good. Said James: "This is a series.''

New York Sports