MIAMI - Everything was set, perfectly teed up in a way that probably had the Nets feeling like they were about to get in 18 holes on a lush South Florida golf course.
In the midst of one of their best stretches of the season and riding a three-game winning streak, they were rested while the Heat was playing on the tail end of a back-to-back, mentally bruised following a 36-point pasting in Houston a night earlier and mired in a four-game losing skid.
The Nets surely weren't going to take it lightly, given the Heat mauled them in their two previous meetings in Brooklyn and a little revenge was supposed to be on Brooklyn's mind. So perhaps it was a touch of that dreaded South Beach flu that victimized them then.
"I thought we were feeling pretty good about ourselves and we had the confidence to come in here and win," Joe Johnson said after the Nets' late charge fell short and they succumbed to Miami, 88-84, at AmericanAirlines Arena Sunday night. "We gave ourselves a chance, but I just thought we beat ourselves a little bit early and we had to fight so hard to get back in it. It was tough."
With an ailing Deron Williams writhing in pain on the bench for the final 40.7 seconds because of what he called a severe cramp on his left side, the Nets (16-17) couldn't beat the Heat again and fell below .500. Miami (15-20) has owned Brooklyn, bottling up the Nets defensively, and there were few times in the Heat's wire-to-wire victory when it appeared the Nets' pulse was thriving enough to keep Miami from snapping Brooklyn's three-game winning streak.
Johnson led the Nets with 19 points and Brook Lopez scored all 16 of his points in the second half, also hauling in seven rebounds.
Chris Bosh (26) and Dwyane Wade (25) totaled 51 points for Miami.
The Heat ran the Nets ragged, particularly in the first half, constantly moving the ball and making them rotate. Brooklyn was more than a step slow on several occasions and Miami, which led by as many as 11 points, assisted on 12 of its 16 first-half baskets. The Heat's offensive exploits paired with the Nets' offensive struggles -- they shot 39.5 percent from the floor -- had them staring up at Miami all night.
Still, even with all that, the Nets were somehow in it at the end. Lopez's jump hook shaved Miami's lead to 83-80 with 1:53 remaining, bringing the Nets the closest they had been since the second quarter.
They couldn't get that big bucket, however, misfiring on their next two possessions. Johnson missed and Mirza Teletovic, who somewhat broke out of a slump with 14 points, rushed up an ill-advised three-pointer with 1:03 left.
Alan Anderson was called for a foul after Wade's seeming flop on an offensive rebound attempt, and Wade sank the second of two free throws for a 84-80 edge, essentially sealing the Heat's win.
"We stuck with it," Lopez said. "We were 10 points behind the entire game, but we stuck with it. We got a tough group. I think we made all the right plays. I thought Joe got a great look, A.A. got a great look. It went their way. We definitely toughed it out and played hard."
Said Williams: "They are a very aggressive defensive team. I don't think we moved the ball as well as we did against Orlando, but a lot of that is because they are a better defensive team. And we missed a lot of open shots, but we had a chance to win the game. Some unfortunate plays and calls, but that's how the game goes sometimes, especially when you get down 10, 12 points on the road."