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Brooklyn is Burning! Nets too hot for Heat to handle, defeat defending champs: 96-95

The Nets were up against the defending NBA champion Miami Heat, in a battle that has proven to be one to watch through the course of the season. Wednesday night, the Nets looked to win the season series against the Heat.

Mike Ehrmann

For the Brooklyn Nets of late, optimism is in the air. The team has won six out of their last seven games, and hoped for their third straight victory Wednesday night in Miami. The Nets have found success, winning their first two games against the Heat this season. More importantly, with a Wizards' loss and a Nets victory, they had a chance to jump the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference standings.

Kevin Garnett did not travel with the team to Miami, resulting in his seventh straight game missed due to back spasms. Along with Garnett, Andrei Kirilenko sat out tonight due to an ankle sprain.

Despite the injuries, the Nets went on to grind out an exhilarating victory in Miami, 96-95. Paul Pierce led the Nets with 29 points, and had yet another night where he hit one of the biggest shots of the game. The Nets are now 3-0 against the Heat this season, with one game remaining between the two teams.

Anytime you have to go up against LeBron James, you know it's going to be a tough night. The defensive plan early was pretty obvious: double him every time he touched the ball. Despite going down early, the Nets plan was working. LeBron's first field goal came eight minutes into the quarter. He finished the quarter with three points.

The Heat finished the quarter just 1-of-8 from behind the arc, evidence of the strong defensive play from Brooklyn. The score after the first quarter was tied 22-22. Chris Bosh was the high man with nine points on 3-5 shooting. When Bosh checked out of the game, the Nets were able to buckle down on defense.

Neither team was able to break away the first six minutes of the quarter, but behind the offensive spark off the bench from Mirza Teletovic, the Nets were able to own a 42-34 lead, their largest lead of the first half.

It wasn't just his offense making a statement, it was his defense as well. He made a few defensive stands against LeBron James, forcing him to take two tough shots, but more importantly, getting inside of his head. Teletovic finished the half with 11 points and three blocks.

What ever the Nets were doing to scheme against James, it was working. They contained him to just seven points on 2-6 shooting. Still, Miami ended the quarter on a 8-0 run, resulting in a 42-42 tie at the half.

Deron Williams and Joe Johnson were a combined 1-10 from the field. Chris Bosh led all scorers with 13 points, while Dwyane Wade chipped in 12.

Quick first half stat: Behind the lead of Mirza Teletovic, the Nets bench combined for 23 of the 42 points scored in the first half. The Heat bench combined for just eight points.

Tied at the half, the Nets had to come out with a mission. Paul Pierce came out scorching hot, scoring 10 points in the span of four minutes. Not only was Pierce scorching to start, but both teams seemed to be hitting everything they looked at. Through the first six minutes, the score was 62-60 in favor of the Nets, 20-18 scoring advantage.

LeBron James awoke in the third quarter. He scored 10 points, more than his total of seven in the first half. Along with James, Mario Chalmers scored nine third quarter points.

But the real star of the quarter: Paul Pierce. Pierce finished the quarter with 24 points, scoring 17 of them in the third quarter. The Nets were riding his back, holding a 73-71 score heading into the fourth quarter. They scored 31 points, but allowed 29. Clearly the defensive battle in the first half, had turned into an offensive shootout.

The two Nets' stars, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson combined for 3-15 shooting, just 10 points heading into the final quarter of play. It was a positive sign to see the Nets stay afloat with the defending champs, despite having their two best players struggle.

The score was 87-81 in favor of the Nets, with 5:30 remaining in the quarter. Mirza Teletovic stayed hot, hitting two very important three pointers in the quarter. He finished with 17 points.

Besides from Livingston, Jason Kidd left the bench in the first seven minutes of the quarter. But with crunch time looming, Kidd installed Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Paul Pierce.

After a few sloppy possessions, the score was all knotted up at 92-92. Paul Pierce, yet again came up clutch for the Nets, taking it hard to the hole and finishing the bucket. From that moment on the Nets stopped the Heat on two consecutive offensive possessions, which led to a Deron Williams bucket with 35 seconds remaining. The score was 96-92, with the Nets looking to close this one out for good.

Of course, that didn't happen right away. Chris Bosh converted an and-one with 30 seconds remaining, putting the Heat down one. Deron Williams failed to put the Nets up three with three seconds remaining, giving the Heat a chance to win this game.

The Heat inbounded the ball, but just to see Shaun Livingston deflect the pass, roll down to the corner of the court, and finally lead to an exhilarating victory for the Nets. Brooklyn has won the season series with Miami, with one game remaining.

Paul Pierce led all scorers with 29 points on 9-12 shooting. The Nets held LeBron James to just 19 points on 6-13 shooting.

The same team that was 10-21 on christmas day, is now 33-30, talking about possibly winning the Atlantic Division.

The Nets will travel to the nation's capitol this Saturday, where they will face off against the Washington Wizards in yet another important game for the Eastern Conference standings.

For more on the Miami Heat, check them out at Hot Hot Hoops.