All of the talk about the Brooklyn Net's 4-0 record against the Heat this season has now died down. NBA writers all over the place wrote before this series about how the Nets were a perfect matchup against the Heat - they play a small-ball, but aren't actually small. Their guards - Deron Williams, Shaun Livingston and Joe Johnson - should be a problem for the Heat's smaller guards, just as they were for the Raptors' smaller guards.
Well, that hasn't proven to be true. In fact, the Heat's small-ball lineups have dominated the Nets so far this series. Here are three lineups that have been particularly successful in the past two games.
Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Shane Battier, Chris Bosh
Total Minutes: 36
Offensive Rating: 109.6
Defensive Rating: 100.7
Net Rating: +8.9
This has been perhaps the most surprising starting lineup for the Heat against the Nets this series - surprising because Shane Battier wasn't even close to making the rotation in the last series and for much of the season. This is one that was immensely successful during last year's run to the NBA Finals, and Erik Spoelstra has seemingly saved it for the same occasion.
Obviously this lineup is particularly dangerous because of the shooting surrounding LeBron James. Although Dwyane Wade has never been a good three-point shooter, the other three players are all dangerous beyond the arc.
It's also dangerous because of its spacing. LeBron is a force of nature when attacking the basket, and he gets to do it one-on-one often in this lineup. Since all of the players are perimeter-oriented, including the center Chris Bosh, none of the opposing defenders are in the paint. Although Kevin Garnett won't venture too far out, he can't just camp out in the lane and deter LeBron. He has the whole lane to operate. That's death to opposing defenses.
Lastly, this lineup also works because it matches up against the Nets' best lineup, which includes Paul Pierce at the power forward spot. They don't have to worry about being punished defensively because they can switch everything if needed. LeBron can legitimately defend everyone on the floor for the Nets.
Norris Cole, Ray Allen, Dwyane Wade, Rashard Lewis, Chris Andersen
Total Minutes: 13
Offensive Rating: 124.1
Defensive Rating: 72.7
Net Rating: +51.4
Good gracious, that net rating is ridiculous. This is a lineup that would likely be dominated if the Heat were playing any other team. However, the Nets' bench rotation isn't particularly huge and can't punish this incredibly small five-some.
Interestingly enough, this group is shooting better than the Heat's starting lineup listed above. Granted, they're playing against inferior opponents - the Nets bench - but if you told Spoelstra that he would get seven minutes a game from this lineup where they have an eFG% of 66.7%, he would be ecstatic.
Further, they've been super solid defensively. And yes, I realize I just said that a lineup in 2014 in the playoffs with Norris Cole, Ray Allen, and Rashard Lewis is super solid defensively. The best part is they've held the Nets to just one shot - in their 13 minutes together, they have not allowed a single offensive rebound.
Though it doesn't have a ton of amazing offensive players other than Wade, they've moved the ball very well against the Nets. They've put up a 2.33 assist-to-turnover ratio, which is especially impressive because they've also posted a 13.8 turnover ratio (the percent of possessions they turn the ball over). That means they're sharing the ball very well and destroying the Nets' second unit.
Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh
Total Minutes: 6
Offensive Rating: 128.6
Defensive Rating: 64.4
Net Rating: +64.1
We have another crazy net rating here, but the most impressive number to me is the defensive rating. Admittedly, this lineup hasn't gotten a ton of run - only three minutes a game in the last two - but it has obviously been successful in its limited time.
This lineup switches out Shane Battier for Ray Allen. Battier is definitely a superior defender, so it's interesting that the Heat would be so stingy on that end with this particular substitution.
The reason for their success is because they have LeBron James. This is the devastating lineup where they max out their shooting and athleticism, meanwhile moving LeBron to the power forward spot. This lineup is incredibly fast, and LBJ is able to match up on any of the players.
The Nets found a lot of success in moving Paul Pierce to power forward this season and having a lone big - either Garnett or Mason Plumlee - on the court with him. Like the Heat's small-ball lineups, they whip the ball around and maximize shooting and exploit matchups with Pierce. The problem is, that just doesn't really work with LeBron James on the floor. Having Pierce matchup against a power forward is an advantage when it's a big, slower big. But when it's LBJ - perhaps the most physically gifted human in the world - it doesn't have the same effect.
The answer for the Nets to deal with these lineups? I don't know to be honest. They got to where they are with their small-ball lineups and using mismatches to their advantage. To go away from that would be foolish at this point. Perhaps the "on switch" for the Heat is just too much to handle.