Coming off a disappointing loss to the Philadelphia 76ers in their second game of the season, the Miami Heat will look to rebound in their first meeting with the new look Nets as the Heat travel to the Barclays Center for Brooklyn's home opener.
Brooklyn is also coming off a loss, having dropped their season opener to the Cleveland Cavaliers, 98-94. Head Coach Jason Kidd was suspended for the first two games of the season by the NBA, and will miss tonight's game as well - with assistant coach Joe Prunty filling in.
In addition to Kidd's absence from Wednesday's opener, the Nets were also without Andrei Kirilenko, who figures to be the teams' super 6th man. Kirilenko is expected to play tonight against the Heat.
This new roster makes the Nets very hard to project night in and night out. First of all, they've only played one regular season game together, so the sample size we have to go off of is not exactly large. Second of all, they have so many offensive weapons that they could choose to focus on one of potentially five players to run their team through on any given night.
Against Cleveland, Brook Lopez did most of the heavy lifting, contributing 21 points on 9-18 shooting in the losing effort. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson combined to go 5-16 from the floor and finished the game with just 20 points.
Paul Pierce had a very effective Nets debut, finishing the game with 17 points on 5-8 shooting, including 3 threes. Kevin Garnett wasn't very effective on the offensive end, finishing with just 8 points, but led the team in rebounds.
So what should we expect when the Heat and Nets square off tonight? That's tough to say.
We can't compare the stats - the Nets have played 1 game, and the Heat have only played 1 at full strength (Dwyane Wade sat out against Philadelphia). We can't compare the history - this is an entirely different Nets squad than the one that Miami beat three times last season.
So we can guess.
This is Brooklyn's home opener, so the crowd figures to be loud and involved throughout. Don't be surprised if Miami has to overcome some adversity pretty early in this one, much like they had to do after falling behind 19-0 to the 76ers.
Pierce and Garnett are noted Heat-haters, and Pierce and LeBron have always had a pretty intense individual rivalry, so the game should be chippy throughout.
We have no idea what Kirilenko will bring to the Nets, and unfortunately, neither do the Heat, who will have no reference on how he fits in to Brooklyn's scheme. Look for him to be a difference maker when both teams start getting in to their benches.
Dwyane Wade will be back. Dwyane Wade will be rested. Dwyane Wade will be angry. That is usually a good combination for the Heat.
It seems unlikely that the Heat will come out as flat against Brooklyn as they did against Philly - for one thing, Brooklyn is actually perceived as a playoff threat, whereas it's easy to overlook a team like the 76ers when a nationally televised game with the Nets is looming, and you're coming off the high of ring night and an opening night whooping of the Bulls.
The difference maker in this game will be whether or not the Nets can get the stops needed to beat the Heat, and that seems questionable at best. Their defense against the Cavs was less than stellar - they allowed 98 points, 16 offensive rebounds and let Cleveland get to the line 34 times. The Cavs also only shot 33% from beyond the arc, a number the Heat will most likely top. The Nets are going to have to find the middle ground between keeping LeBron and Wade out of the lane without fouling while not allowing them to swing the ball to their shooters all night long. If that happens, the Nets have a chance in this one.
Spread: Miami Heat (-3.5)