The Miami Heat are looking to avoid losing three consecutive games to the Brooklyn Nets who have defeated Miami in close defeats in the last two matchups in Brooklyn. The Heat beat the Wizards on Monday night to end a three game skid.
1. The last time the Heat saw the Nets, they were struggling and well out of the playoff contention. Now, they are sitting right in the middle of it - what has changed to get their season in the right direction?
The Nets small-ball lineup has paid its dividends. Paul Pierce has done a tremendous job of playing power forward despite his lack of size. Pierce has spread the floor for the Nets but also matched up with big men and forced them out of the paint. That and the fact that Deron Williams is in the midst of yet another second half of the season surge has put the Nets right into the thick of playoff contention.
2. The Nets have beaten the Heat twice this season in Brooklyn. What does Brooklyn have that makes this such a difficult matchup for the Heat?
The Nets and Heat do match up fairly well. Both teams don't have a true center and they each have fine ball movement. However, the Nets have Shaun Livingston. Livingston is a 6'7" point guard that uses his size often to get position in the paint and to drive to the basket. Livingston can make life difficult for the Heat because the likes of Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole will have issues matching up with Livingston's size. The Nets also have Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The two former Celtics have made life hell for LeBron James dating back to his Cleveland days. Anytime those two lock up with LeBron, it is sure to be a battle.
3. The Nets are almost as bad as a rebounding team as the Heat. Knowing that's Miami's biggest weakness, what other areas will the Nets try to exploit on Wednesday?
The Nets will try to attack the Heat's lack of size. Even though the Nets don't have all that much length themselves, they do have Livingston and Joe Johnson, both players who are big for their position. The Nets will work the ball around the perimeter to try and get an open shot early. Over their last three games, the Nets have had 34% of their points come from shots beyond the arc. The Nets like to set the tone early with three-point shots, but then attack the paint. Players like Livingston, Johnson and Deron Williams are great at getting into the paint and taking their man one-on-one. The Heat need to either protect the paint to force the Nets to take three's, or close out hard on all shots from the three-point line.
4. What's the expectation in Brooklyn for the Nets playoff success?
It started with a championship. That was the expectation leading up to the season, but then the Nets took the floor and they fell way short of the goal they set for themselves. However, as time progressed, the Nets built themselves back into a dangerous threat in the underwhelming Eastern Conference. The expectation as of now is a second-round appearance in the playoffs and an inevitable matchup with Miami or the Indiana Pacers. From there, it is tough to be upset if the Nets lost to one of those two clubs. But with the depth and veteran presence they possess, the Nets can take them down.
5. What's your prediction for the game?
The Nets are a bit banged up. Kevin Garnett has been battling back spasms, Paul Pierce has an injured shoulder, and Andrei Kirilenko has a sprained ankle. The Nets have shown their depth is dangerous and Marcus Thornton has been a great addition to the team. With the Heat floundering and the Nets streaking, I think the Nets can give the Heat a run for their money. Considering the Nets won the first two, I'm going to give them the advantage in this one. I'll take the Nets, 98-93.