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First to 4, when it counts: After a regular-season sweep, Nets get playoff shot at Heat

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MIAMI - Dwyane Wade hardly thinks the regular-season series between Brooklyn and Miami was meaningless.

The Nets swept the Heat, winning three of those games by a mere point, taking the other in double overtime. That's not exactly a show of dominance from a scoring-differential perspective.

Doesn't matter, Wade said.

The Nets won all four, and that has Miami's full attention as the sides get ready to open an Eastern Conference semifinals series. Miami, the league's two-time defending champion, will host Game 1 on Tuesday night.

"They figured out a way to beat us four times and that hasn't happened," said Wade, the Heat guard who missed two of the four Brooklyn-Miami games this season. "So we've got to crack that code."

History shows the Heat will struggle in that code-cracking plan.

This series marks the 26th time that teams will meet in a best-of-seven series after one club went 4-0 or better against the other in the regular season. In each of the first 25 such instances, the regular-season winner also won the playoff matchup.

Advantage, Brooklyn.

"I think they know what's coming," Nets coach Jason Kidd said. "We've seen them four times. I think we have the utmost respect for them and they have the utmost respect for us. Hopefully, it can be a great series."

The buildup for this started in July, when the Nets added Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and started talking about a championship.

That got Miami's attention.

The 4-0 record, that just got even more of Miami's attention.

"The goal from the beginning when we came in here was to win a championship and we understand that in order to do that, you have to go through the best," Pierce said. "And Miami being that team over the last couple years, we figured this was going to be a test for us."

It's the fifth time Pierce and LeBron James will be on opposite sides of a playoff series. Pierce won the first two when James was in Cleveland; James has won the last two since coming to Miami, topping Garnett and Pierce when they wore Boston colours.

To James, this isn't about breaking a tie. He's got bigger goals.

"It should be very challenging," James said.

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Here's five things to know about the series.

HELLO, BROOKLYN: James said he realized quickly after the personnel moves last summer that the Nets would find their way into the post-season-contender mix, pointing out Monday that they've gotten here even without injured C Brook Lopez. And while the Nets say that there's no real rivalry with Miami yet, there's clearly some personal scores already involved. "They know my tendencies. I know their tendencies," James said.

THE 4-0 STAT: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra isn't bringing up his team's 0-4 record against Brooklyn this season much, opting to look more forward instead. "Depends on who you ask," Spoelstra said of its significance. "We're looking at us and how we have to impact the games to give ourselves the best chance to win."

LIVINGSTON RETURNS: It could be argued Nets G Shaun Livingston owes some of his success to the Heat, since they were the team that lured him back to the NBA in 2008 — 17 months after he endured one of the more gruesome knee injuries in recent memory. Livingston played in only four games with the Heat before getting waived in what was largely a salary-related move. The Nets are his fifth team since that brief Miami stint, but the Heat still speak highly of Livingston. He's had some big moments already against the Heat this season, and if he has more in the next couple weeks, that's obviously going to be a bonus for Brooklyn.

KIDD VS. HEAT: Kidd's record against the Heat in recent years has been beyond stellar. Going back to the 2007-08 season, Kidd's teams won 16 of the last 21 games he played in against Miami, and obviously the rookie Nets coach is 4-0 versus the Heat so far this season. Add it up, and that's a 20-5 record of late. But it hasn't always been that rosy: Kidd also had streaks of five, nine and six consecutive losses against the Heat during his playing career.

LBJ 4K: James is nine points away from becoming the eighth player in NBA history with 4,000 post-season points. Among active players, only Kobe Bryant (5,640) and Tim Duncan (4,735) have more. And five of the top nine active playoff scorers — James (3), Wade (6), Pierce (7), Ray Allen (tied-8) and Kevin Garnett (tied-8) — will be in this series.

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Find Tim Reynolds on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ByTimReynolds

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