(SportsNetwork.com) - The Miami Heat completed another exemplary regular season, but there was one team they weren't able to conquer, not even in four tries.
That team was the Brooklyn Nets.
The two squads begin their Eastern Conference semifinals matchup Tuesday night in South Beach and the prevailing theme at the outset is can Miami, the two- time defending champs, beat the Nets?
"We know we can beat them, but there's a difference between regular season and the playoffs. It's going to take a collective effort," Brooklyn All-Star guard Joe Johnson said.
The Nets won this season's four regular-season matchups by a combined 12 points and three of the games were decided by a single point. Brooklyn's four victories this season snapped a 13-game losing streak to the Heat.
Miami swept an injured Charlotte Bobcats team in the first round. The Heat played decently, but they've been out of action since Monday night. The long wait can work as a positive in that players can get fully healthy, but also a negative if the team loses it sharpness.
"We've been waiting around for a while," said LeBron James. "We don't have a choice, The schedule, it is what it is. Guys are definitely getting their bodies right."
The Nets played Sunday afternoon and barely hung on to beat the Toronto Raptors in a Game 7 at the Air Canada Centre. They flew right to South Beach to get started on preparation for this second round.
Paul Pierce blocked a Kyle Lowry attempt for the win just before the horn to preserve their season.
Pierce and Kevin Garnett, two future Hall of Famers, were brought in at a steep price to give this Nets team championship credibility. With first-year head coach Jason Kidd on the sideline, the team needed leadership. The move didn't bring the kind of expected regular-season success, but the Nets are one of eight teams that can still wear the crown.
"This was a very difficult series," Garnett said. "It tested everybody's will here. If anything, I think we grew up a bit during this series."
They'll need growth when they face the Heat.
During the Bobcats series, James averaged 30.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 2.3 steals. Chris Bosh was decent versus Charlotte with 14.5 ppg, but he shot a ridiculous 69 percent from 3-point range. Dwyane Wade, who missed a lot of time in the regular season, averaged 17.5 ppg during the Charlotte sweep, which was down a touch from the campaign.
The Nets backcourt of Deron Williams and Johnson has All-Star pedigree, but appeared to slip a little during the campaign. That was until the postseason hit. Johnson averaged 21.6 points against the Raptors and dominated the post against the smaller guards trying to cover him. Williams improved his play tremendously, averaging 17.1 ppg and staying aggressive throughout, at least in Brooklyn's victories. Williams tweaked his chronically bad ankle in the Toronto series, but played through it.
This is the third time the two franchises will meet in the postseason and the results have been one-sided. Miami swept the Nets in the first round in 2005, then dispatched them in the second round one year later, 4-1.
The Heat have won nine consecutive postseason series, which is tied for the eighth-longest in NBA history.
Game 2 will be in Miami on Thursday night.