MIAMI - Guess the Nets' defensive juices didn't quite make it through U.S. Customs.
The Nets came to South Beach riding that emotional wave generated by their first-round takedown in Toronto, looking for more success against the Heat, the team they beat in all four tries during the regular season.
Miami wasn't about to have any of it, though, and served up a beatdown of its own.
Done in by an atrocious second half, and in particular the third quarter, the Nets got off to a rough start in their Eastern Conference semifinal matchup with the Heat, losing, 107-86, at AmericanAirlines Arena Tuesday night.
Game 2 is here Thursday night, and the Heat surely has to be confident after pounding the Nets with a 52-28 edge in points in the paint.
"I think that's the mental part, being sharp,'' Shaun Livingston said. "They were able to get in the paint just on our defensive breakdowns, back doors. It wasn't anything as far as one-on-ones. Our defensive schemes, they weren't sharp.''
Fueled by a spirit-breaking 15-2 run in the third, Miami seized control after leading by only three early in the half. The surge almost appeared to zap the will of the Nets, who never got it together after that. The Heat pumped in 33 points in the quarter and broke any defensive spirit the Nets might have had.
"I don't think we laid an egg,'' Paul Pierce said. "We had one difficult quarter, the third quarter. For the most part we were in the game, but we've got to do a better job with our defense. I thought we allowed too many points in the paint, they got a lot of layups.''
LeBron James had a game-high 22 points for the Heat. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson scored 17 each for the Nets, who got only eight from Pierce. Kevin Garnett went scoreless for the first time in his 139-game playoff career.
Even though the Nets' bench had only 17 points through three quarters, Jason Kidd rolled the dice at the start of the fourth. With his team staring at a 79-66 deficit, he went all in with his reserves.
"I wanted to get those guys, the starters, a break,'' Kidd said. "Get them some rest. And when we went with that group, I felt that that group could make shots, but also get some stops and get it to where it's under 10, and then go from there. But it never happened.''
The Nets never got closer than 13, at 83-70 on Livingston's driving layup with 8:21 to go. Yet Williams said he would have liked a crack at it.
"Of course we'd love to get back out there,'' he said. "But that was Coach's decision. He probably just felt like 20 points is tough to overcome at that point in the game. But as a player, you definitely want to be out there.''
So all that outside chatter about the Nets' regular-season sweep officially has been rendered moot. The two-time defending champs finally solved the jigsaw puzzle of the Nets, leaving them searching for a counterattack that will help them get out of town with a split.
"You have to think about [the sweep] as a competitor and you keep hearing that over and over,'' Garnett said. "Your competitive juices are just going to meet that and I just thought it was gasoline on the fire. They came out and they won at home like they were supposed to, and now it's our job to try to steal one in Game 2.
"But we have to do it with some aggression, we have to do it with putting them on their heels and attacking them more than we did tonight.''