Photo Credit: Jesse D. Garrabrant
The Miami HEAT host the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. The HEAT fell to the Nets 104-95 in overtime the last time the two met on January 10. Tip off is set for 7:00 PM. Television coverage on Sun Sports begins at 6:30 PM. Listen to the action live on the new FM 104.3 and AM 790 The Ticket.
1: How did the HEAT right the ship against the Wizards?
Couper Moorhead: It wasn’t a perfect game, but the HEAT got better as things went along and by the end of the third quarter the defense was intense and just about everyone was diving for loose balls. Stretches of offense left quite a bit to be desired – it was a second night of a back-to-back after a three-game road trip, after all – but when you hold John Wall to his first career game without a single field goal inside of the three-point arc, you’re probably doing enough right to win.
Joe Beguiristain: The HEAT came into the game very business-like and amped up their defensive intensity against the Wizards. Washington came into the game as one of the hotter teams in the league, winning eight of their last nine and shooting a combined 50.9 percent from the field in their last six. On Monday night, the Wizards had no answers for the HEAT’s defense as they shot a measly 40.4 percent. Dwyane Wade also had a phenomenal fourth quarter on both ends of the floor which essentially put the Wizards away.
2: The Nets have looked like a new team lately. What has changed?
Couper: Apart from being relatively healthy despite Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko both missing Monday’s game against Toronto, the Nets have adjusted to a different playing style in the wake of Brook Lopez’ foot surgery just before Christmas. In fact they’re almost as positionless as the HEAT these days, throwing out flexible lineups with Paul Pierce, Kirilenko and Garnett all taking turns in the frontcourt positions. Those lineups have helped the floor spacing, but it’s the defense that has truly taken off. Since January 1st, about a week after Lopez’ injury, the Nets have the fifth-best defense in the league. In Garnett’s minutes – about 20 per game – the Nets defend at a level that would top even the Indiana Pacers.
Joe: When Brook Lopez went down in late December with a broken foot, nobody expected Brooklyn to make a turnaround and recover from its abysmal 9-17 record. Instead, the Nets have gone 22-9 in the New Year, which is the best record in the Eastern Conference during that span. A lot of that has to do with better defensive play.
For the first two months of the season, Brooklyn gave up 106.7 points per 100 possessions and subsequently went 10-21. Since then has been a whole other story as the Nets have given up just 101.1 points per 100 possessions.
The ageless Paul Pierce has been huge for the Nets on the defensive end and Kevin Garnett has stepped up after a disappointing start. However, Garnett has missed the past six games and will miss the game tonight with an ailing back. Andrei Kirilenko suffered an ankle injury on Sunday and might play.
Despite their issues and injuries early on, the Nets have already defeated the HEAT twice this season. Look for the Heat to come out very focused and out for revenge as they were on Monday night.
3: What should we be watching in this game that could be a precursor to a potential playoff matchup?
Couper: There’s the fun stuff, such as whether or not Erik Spoelstra has Chris Bosh defend Joe Johnson for a lengthy stretch as he did in early January, and then there’s the more technical items. Assuming everyone is ready to go, what lineups does Spoelstra use when Brooklyn goes quasi-small? Do they use those Bosh-Chris Andersen lineups to keep Garnett away from the point of attack in pick-and-rolls? Can the HEAT keep the ball away from the rim – with a particular focus on recently-acquired Marcus Thornton – and force Brooklyn into the jumpers that would be difficult to sustain over the course of a playoff series? Do the HEAT defend Deron Williams with the same aggressive tactics they tend to employ against attacking point guards? Again, both teams need to be healthy for us to begin answering these questions, but they’re questions that could pop up again.
Joe: The LeBron James-Paul Pierce matchup is always fun to watch. While Pierce has had to play the four recently due to all the injuries on the Nets, you can expect both players to guard each other at some point in the game and in a potential playoff matchup. Pierce has averaged 21 points in the two games against the HEAT this season and always plays at a different level when playing Miami.
Another thing to take a look at it is how Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers defend Deron Williams, who is still a threat despite the fact that he’s having a disappointing season. Williams has picked it up recently, averaging 17 points and 5.4 assists per game in his past ten contests. Perhaps he can continue the improved play into the playoffs.
- Since January 1, the Nets have gone 22-9 which is the best record in the Eastern Conference during that span.
- Kevin Garnett will miss the game due to an ailing back and Andrei Kirilenko might play with a hurt ankle.
- The HEAT have won eight straight against the Nets at AmericanAirlines Arena.
HEAT Offense: 110 (1)
HEAT Defense: 102.9 (12)
Nets Offense: 103.1 (T-16)
Nets Defense: 103.9 (15)