With the Nets on the brink of facing a 3-0 deficit, everyone stepped up. Saturday night's convincing victory over the Miami Heat handed the defending champions their first loss in nearly a month and put the Nets back into the series.
Total team effort by Brooklyn in this one: eight players had at least eight points. One player in particular who really rose to the occasion was Mirza Teletovic. Joe Johnson had his sneaky efficient game, Paul Pierce got his mid-range game going, Kevin Garnett looked young(er), and Deron Williams looked better; Andray Blatche too had a major impact on the game on both ends of the floor following a poor showing in Game 2. However, it was Teletovic—who was great through the first two games—who propelled Brooklyn over the champs.
"The King of Bosnia" went for 12 points in just 19 minutes off the bench, shooting all of his seven shots from beyond the arc and knocking down four of them. He also managed to grab six rebounds and contain LeBron James, who wasn't a major factor past the first quarter. Teletovic wasn't as great in his Game 3 performance than in his Game 2 performance, but in Game 3, his play led to a win.
Teletovic is not known for his defense. He is a streaky shooter who can shoot himself in or out of the rotation. And as anyone who watched FIBA Europe last summer knows, he has range out to the parking lot. He is a strong 6'9" tweener who isn't that quick laterally and can't be depended on to defend great scorers. However, Teletovic is different with LeBron James.
It's crazy. Mirza is a significantly better player with LeBron on the floor and LeBron is clearly worse when Mirza on the floor.
In this series alone, Mirza has played 35 minutes with LeBron on the floor and 29 minutes with LeBron on the bench. When LeBron is on the floor, he is shooting 61% from the floor, has six rebounds, 23 points, and a +/- of +8. When LeBron is on the bench, Teletovic is shooting 45%, has only four rebounds, 14 points and a +/- of -17.
LeBron's stats are a little bit more skewed due to the fact that he has played 80 minutes with Mirza on the bench, while only playing 35 with him on the floor, but the most telling stat is that LeBron is a +10 with Mirza on the bench, and -8 with him on it.
We all remember Mirza's little scuffle with LeBron in January, and for some reason that mental edge Mirza has over LeBron has carried throughout the season. Mirza is not afraid of the best player in the league and defends him as if he is a normal player. Watch here how Mirza locks up with one of the strongest men in the league.
Mirza disrupts the flow of a set that was supposed to lead to a James post up on him and the Heat are forced to play out of sync. The Heat waste most of the shot clock trying to get the ball back to one of the Big Three, but two of them, LeBron and Chris Bosh, the Heat's two primary scoring options, are taken out of the play due to awful spacing. Dwyane Wade eventually gets the ball and is then forced to take an 18-footer, which isn't his shot, and the Nets secure the rebound and go the other way.
Teletovic is a fearless shooter, and apparently a fearless defender when it comes to the most intimidating player in the game today. When Teletovic is defending isolations this season, he allows .89 points per possession, the 185 best mark in that category amongst qualified players. So he isn't very talented at defending his man off the dribble in one-on-one situations. But watch Teletovic absolutely shut down LeBron on this drive.
Mirza slides perfectly into the path LeBron wants to take and forces him to take a bad shot. Teletovic is also a great matchup for LeBron due to their similar size. Granted LeBron is a genetic freak, but Teletovic is taller and has a fairly long wingspan which can disrupt LeBron's shot as he does in the prior play.
A post can't be made about Mirza Teletovic if his offense isn't talked about. Teletovic was on fire during Game 3, but has been all series against Miami. The Bosnian is shooting 11-of-19 from three through the first three games which has come from great spacing.
An interesting way that Teletovic has gotten so many good looks beyond the arc is via Joe Johnson. Three of Teletovic's threes have come off of feeds from Johnson in this series. Johnson has attracted so much attention from the Heat this series-and rightfully so-that many Nets have benefitted from it. Johnson has done a fantastic job against the Heat of attracting defenders and getting the ball out of his hands and having it get to the open man.
Johnson comes off a pick from the left wing and Bosh is so worried about him that he hedges so hard that he gravitates back to his man once him and Johnson are at the top of they key. Teletovic actually gets a nice lane to the rim at this point when Johnson has three Heat defenders eying him down. Either way, Johnson occupies so much attention that the Heat get out of position. As the ball gets swung along the three-point line later in the possession, Johnson finds Teletovic back pedaling back beyond the arc. Johnson hits him in stride and it leads to an easy three.
This play came one minute after Teletovic entered the game. Getting Mirza the ball right when he comes into the game can yield great results, for he can get hot very easily as seen in both Game 2 and 3.
When playing the best team in the league in a high-pressure environment like the current series, everyone needs to bring their absolute best. And in Mirza Teletovic's first fair chance at playoff minutes, he is taking advantage of it and thriving.
Mirza Teletovic, Third-Person Shooter - Ian Levy - Hardwood Paroxsym