LeBron James dismisses Nets as Heat's biggest challenge in East: 'Get outta here'
The victory -- which was sealed when Nets rookie center Mason Plumlee blocked a James dunk attempt in the closing seconds -- made Brooklyn the first team to beat Miami four times in the same season during the "Big 3" era, which began in 2010-11. It also moved Brooklyn to 43-34 on the season and improved the team's record since Jan. 1 to 33-13, the best in the East.
If the playoffs were to begin today, the No. 5 seed Nets would face the No. 4 seed Bulls in the first round. Should they win that series, the Nets would be looking at a conference semifinals showdown with the two-time defending champions, who currently sit in the No. 1 seed.
Asked by TNT's Craig Sager if perhaps the Nets were now the Heat's "biggest challenge" in the conference, James dismissed the notion.
"Get outta here, Craig," he said. "Next question."
The Nets' emergence as a possible East sleeper has picked up steam in part due to the Pacers' recent struggles. Indiana (53-25) is just 13-13 since the All-Star break and has endured some locker room turbulence in recent weeks. All-Star center Roy Hibbert accused unnamed Pacers of being "selfish dudes" and, earlier this week, coach Frank Vogel benched Hibbert for the entire second half against the Hawks.
A Miami/Brooklyn series would renew a rivalry between James and former Celtics Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. James' Cavaliers were eliminated by the Celtics in 2008 and 2010, while the Heat eliminated the Celtics in 2011 and 2012 after the four-time MVP departed Cleveland as a free agent in 2010. Pierce and Garnett were traded by Boston to Brooklyn last summer.
"We’ve got to see where the seedings are … it can change any given minute,” Pierce said Tuesday, according to the New York Post. "But we know if we’re going to try to win the championship this year we’re probably going to have to go through Miami."
Brooklyn is seeking its first playoff series victory since 2007.