HHH Series Preview: How the HEAT potentially match up with the Nets

Mike Ehrmann

As the Miami HEAT await the results of the Brooklyn Nets - Toronto Raptors series, we examine the potential of a Heat vs Nets matchup in the Conference Semifinals.

The Miami HEAT will have a few days off as the rest of the NBA's playoff pool continues to bludgeon one another. Among the tightly contested series currently happening, the Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors are in the middle of a hotly contested matchup with a pivotal game 7 tomorrow set to break a 3-3 tie. Miami will face the winner of that series and I decided to take a closer look at a potential matchup with the Nets. Click here to read about the Toronto matchup.

Point Guard



When All-Star center Brook Lopez went down for the season, Jason Kidd and Nets decided to change their entire philosophy. Playing a hybrid small/big lineup featuring bigger wings and smaller bigs, the Nets turned their season around and went 34-17 once 2014 kicked off. The key has been starting the 6'7" Livingston and the 6'4" Williams, together and allowing them to take turns running the offense while the other plays off the ball. Both are adept at posting up and then swinging the ball around to find an open shot and the All-Star Williams remains a shooting threat from beyond the arc and can draw foul shots in bunches using his imposing frame.

Of note, however, is that the Nets went away from this permutation during game 6 vs. Toronto and started Alan Anderson, allowing Williams to have full time point guard duties while Livingston came off the bench. Either way, Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole will have their hands full if they run into these two.

Advantage: Brooklyn

Shooting Guard

Brooklyn: Joe Johnson, Marcus Thornton,

Miami: Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen

Joe Johnson has had an astounding postseason thus far, shooting an absurd 54% from the field and 44% from 3, averaging 21 points per game. Johnson has been dynamite in the short-range game, shooting an absurd 88% from the shorter 8-12 ft range and nearly 70% near the rim during the playoffs. The former spot mentioned is one of the least efficient zones in the league as that area is often reserved for floaters and runners, which Johnson excels at, but are still shots that rank among the most difficult in the game. The degree at which he's made those shots is in no where near sustainable. Still, he, like the point guards, can post up and distribute as well as use his handle to break down defenders.

Thornton was acquired in a midseason trade for the corpse of Jason Terry and despite having a nice stretch in the regular season, has fallen out of the postseason rotation. Thornton is a streaky shooter who has burned Miami in the past, but is undersized and not much of a defender. I believe this positional battle is a push as it merely depends on who plays better. Futhermore, Johnson has played the small forward position when the Nets switched to a dual point guard lineup, so it remains to be seen if he matches up on Dwyane Wade or LeBron James.

Push

Small Forward

Brooklyn: Paul Pierce, Alan Anderson, Andrei Kirilenko

Miami: LeBron James, James Jones, Shane Battier

The blubbery Pierce continues to frustrate opponents with his creaky old man game. Still a jump shooting threat as well as someone who can get to the rim despite having the footspeed of a paraplegic walrus, Pierce has manned both forward spots for the Nets and is often too skilled offensively for most power forwards to contain. Anderson is a steady veteran who can score decently from the perimeter and can defend multiple positions and Kirilenko, while diminished, is still a crafty and multifaceted player on both ends despite his once passable jumper deteriorating. What works to the Nets advantage is they have so many tweener wings to throw at LeBron James that no one player will get overly worn out dealing with him. Considering how small the Nets play, don't be surprised if Shane Battier does make a return to the rotation as he wouldn't have to bang with too many big bodies. LBJ had been merely decent (for him) vs. the Nets in the regular season and has to put his stamp on the series if he is to meet his old foe Pierce in the next round.

Advantage: Miami

Big Men

Brooklyn: Kevin Garnett, Mason Plumlee, Andray Blatche, Mirza Teletovic, Jason Collins

Miami, Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem, Chris Andersen, Greg Oden

There's no point in distinguishing between power forward and center as both teams have eschewed traditional big men roles for the most part. Garnett at times barely resembles an NBA player anymore, but is still the defensive coordinator of his squad and will likely knock down more shots vs. his hated rivals. The athletic Plumlee is a perfect foil for Chris Anderson as he is practically a younger version of Miami's high flyer, taking high percentage shots in the paint and fouling protecting the rim. Blatche is supremely gifted, but plagued with inconsistency and it remains tough to peg a role for the big man who is defensively challenged and takes some poor shots.

Honestly, I fear Teletovic more than I probably should. The Bosnian sophomore is a sniper from beyond the arc and has burned Miami all through the regular season. He's no one trick pony though, as he is capable of actually scoring some 2 point baskets and defends adequately and smartly enough to not be liability. Miami needs to stick to him like glue. A lot will be needed from Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen in this series and I wonder what role Udonis Haslem could have against a team that loves to go small.

Advantage: Brooklyn

I believe the Nets would serve as a tougher foe because they possess many different perimeter threats who can hit the ill-fated "of course" shots that drives the local fanbase wild. Furthermore, with so many bodies to throw at LeBron, he would have to be at his A game for most of the series.

Despite an 0-4 record, Miami has yet to play Brooklyn at peak strength and focus so I would still expect Miami to win the series, but if you've enjoyed Miami's week off while observing other fanbases sweat the early rounds of the playoffs, I would think Toronto would be an easier matchup. Disagree? Feel free to leave a comment below.



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