Game of the Night is a daily column looking back at the top game from the night before.
Entering last night, LeBron James was had made 128 of his last 130 slam-dunk attempts.
Step up Mason ‘Plums’ Plumlee.
The rookie shot-blocker capped off the best night of his young career with two crucial blocks down the stretch: first on Chris Bosh before turning back LeBron’s dunk in the dying seconds.
LeBron wheeled away looking for a foul. The Brooklyn bench erupted onto the court. The referees shook their heads and the final buzzer sounded on an enthralling contest.
The final few possessions were a microcosm of the story of the night. For every shot and stop the Heat mustered, Brooklyn somehow found a response to everything. For every Rashard Lewis dunk, the Nets had Mirza Teletovic step up and knock down a three. For every Norris Cole fastbreak bucket, Shaun Livingston backed his way into a low-post score.
LeBron James led all scorers with 29 points on 9-16 shooting to go with his 10 rebounds but was matched shot-for-shot by a combination of Paul Pierce, Marcus Thornton and Joe Johnson.
Johnson nailed an improbable mid-range floater in the final minute after losing his dribble at least twice under pressure from James, rising to score over both James and Shane Battier’s late help.
Marcus Thornton provided an x-factor off the bench, his four steals keying some crucial fastbreak scores. The former King made six of his eight shots to end with 16 points.
But it was first-year big man Mason Plumlee who stole the spotlight with three crucial plays late in the game.
The first was a block from the weakside on a Chris Bosh shot. Plumlee rotated over and got a comfortable hand to the ball despite the high arc. Both of the Plumlee brothers have legs made of pogo sticks. The block did come as the ball began to level out in mid-air and on another day might have been called a goal-tend.
Plums’ second big play came on the offensive end as he crept along the baseline for a backdoor cut and dunk, a seam he found countless times as the Heat committed three men to try and blow up the Nets’ pick-and-roll game at the top of the key.
The third play was the headline block on LeBron James with 15 seconds to play. James drove around a foundering Joe Johnson, rode through Paul Pierce’s poor help defense and rose for what he thought would be a game-winning dunk.
Plumlee arrived late on the scene, thrusting a hand to meet James at the arc of his leap, turning the ball back at the rim.
James asked for a foul and looked to have a case. Further replays, however, show Plumlee making contact with the ball, then James’ hand – an extension of the ball on shot attempts.
All told, Brooklyn can claim a season-sweep of the Miami Heat, although three of the four victories came by just a single point with the fourth in a double-overtime contest.
A playoff series between these two just got even more enticing and the two teams match up well. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce would relish another shot at a LeBron-led team while Miami would love nothing more than to prove that yet again sweeping a regular season series is meaningless once the playoffs begin.