Once the Miami Heat finally figured out how to get rolling against Brooklyn, they never ceded control.
And after a regular-season series against the Nets in which nothing went right, nothing seemed to go wrong for the Heat in this one.
The 0-4 record against the Nets in the regular season? That seems officially forgotten by Miami. As far as the Heat are concerned, 1-0 is all that matters now, after LeBron James scored 22 points, Ray Allen added 19 off the bench and Miami pulled away in the second half to beat Brooklyn 107-86 in Game 1 of the teams' Eastern Conference semifinal series on Tuesday night.
The Heat hadn't played in eight days, yet looked in perfect rhythm.
"You never know how exactly it's going to be for that first game," Allen said. "We were beating up on each other for a whole week. We were ready for another opponent and we came out and played exactly the way we wanted to play."
It was a three-point game early in the third quarter. By the time that period ended, the Heat were up by 13 and three Nets starters would be getting the rest of the night off, a decision that essentially ended any comeback chances. A 24-9 run by the Heat during that quarter made all the difference, not just blowing the game open but putting an emphatic end to any notions that Miami couldn't beat Brooklyn.
"I think the most important thing was the rhythm we were in," James said. "It seemed like we didn't take much time off at all."
Chris Bosh scored 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, Dwyane Wade finished with 14 points and Mario Chalmers had 12 for Miami, which recorded at least one regular-season win against every team except Brooklyn, losing four times by a total of 12 points.
This one went much differently.
"In the regular season, teams like Brooklyn and San Antonio, they're going to exploit you just a little bit sometimes," Bosh said. "That's what I love about the playoffs — you can sit and study your opponent, get your strategy together and figure a plan of attack."
Game 2 is Thursday night in Miami.
Deron Williams and Joe Johnson scored 17 points each for the Nets, who got only eight from Paul Pierce and no points from Kevin Garnett in 16 minutes. Garnett leveled Allen, his former Boston teammate, with a solid screen in the first half, but Allen clearly got the better of his first postseason game against Garnett and Pierce.
"This is the defending champs," Nets coach Jason Kidd said. "It's always going to be at a high level and we've got to find a way to match it."
Miami's lead was 55-52 early in the third quarter after a 3-pointer by Williams, and every indication was that the Heat and Nets — who played three one-point games and a double-overtime affair in the regular season — were heading down to the wire again.
Bosh scored seven straight points and Miami was on its way. Allen's 3-pointer pushed the lead to 14, James and Chris Andersen (who left in the fourth with a right knee contusion) added two free throws apiece and just like that Miami's lead was up to 79-61.
"They have been waiting on us," said Garnett, who went scoreless for the first time in his 139 postseason games. "They have been resting. They have been hearing that we beat them this and all that. We need to be better, and we will be."
Pregame lineup moves by both clubs lent more intrigue to Game 1. Miami brought Shane Battier — who played 2 minutes, total, in the first round against Charlotte — back into the starting five, while Brooklyn reinserted Shaun Livingston into its lineup after using him off the bench late in the Toronto series.
Battier learned on Monday that he would play. He said the Heat knew exactly what they needed.
"Energy," Battier said. "The four games we played in the regular season were very low-energy games. We tried to finesse those wins and that doesn't get it done against these guys. They're too savvy. You have to play a high-motor, high-energy game."
After never leading by more than seven points against Brooklyn in the regular season, the Heat led by 11 after a drive by James with 3:32 left in the first half. But the Nets closed on a 14-6 run, and Williams' first beat-the-clock 3-pointer of the game sent Brooklyn into halftime down 46-43.
Williams did it again in the third, but that one only got Brooklyn within 79-66.
"It came down to defense tonight," Williams said. "Our defensive game plan was not executed at all."