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Game #82: New Jersey Nets (12-69) vs. Miami Heat (46-35)

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With Playoff implications looming, the Heat will host New Jersey in the final game of their regular season tonight at the AAA.  There is talk that Erik Spoelstra may rest his regulars, but that just may mean no 2nd half or 4th quarter for some guys.  My guess would be Jermaine, Udonis, Wade, Q-Rich and maybe Arroyo.  My first thought was ‘That's ok, our second unit has been awesome the past few weeks', but a big part of that is Udonis, and I think he is a guy on the top of the ‘needs to rest' list. 

While Miami's first round opponent is a big deal to us Heat fans, the story getting more national attention is the race for 8th place.  Chicago took a big step towards securing the final playoff spot by beating the Boston Celtics in what the Bulls hope isn't their final game at the United Center. 

They now control their own destiny and will make the Playoffs by winning at Charlotte tonight, but they can still get in if Toronto loses their final game, which is at home against the Knicks.  Should they finish in a tie, the Raptors hold the tiebreaker due to winning 2 of 3 against Chicago this season. 

As for the Heat, their first round opponent still has not been decided.  By losing to Chicago last night, Boston secured themselves the 4 seed.  Miami can still finish in 5th or 6th place depending on the outcome of tonight's games.  With a win, the Heat will get the 5 seed and play Boston in the 1st round regardless of what happens in any other game.  If they lose however, then Milwaukee can take the 5 spot by winning at Boston.

Obviously this is a topic that has been getting a lot of attention amongst Miami media, which naturally filters its way to the Heat players and coach.  Do you think any of them are concerned that the Heat went 3-1 against Atlanta and 0-3 against Boston?  It certainly doesn't appear so. 

Said Wade:

"We're more familiar with Atlanta because of last year's playoffs and this season, so we're more familiar with them than Boston, and we haven't had much success against (Boston).  But, at the same time, you don't really worry about who you're going to play.  You can't control it.  Those two are going to fight down to the end.  I think we did a good job of controlling our own destiny, and we'll take whatever we can take and we'll prepare for either one the same way."

"I think we like grind-out games more so than up and down. Boston has always made the plays, the shots at the end of ballgames to beat us.  Normally, that's what we're pretty good at, when we get down there, we make the play, make the shot to get us over the hump.  With Atlanta, it's been up and down in terms of what game is going to be seen. But that's because it's two totally different kinds of styles, and neither team can get a grip on the other team's style."

Said J-O:

"As players, we haven't really talked much about it, because we don't know where they're going to land at. We just wanted to be playing good, whether it's the fifth seed or sixth seed.  I think both teams present something different.  I think Atlanta is a more-athletic, fast-paced, never-really-know-you're-going-to-get type of a team.  Boston, they have a championship pedigree. They're definitely not as fast, more our speed, slow, grind it out.  But they have veteran leadership that can put you in a difficult spot."

"So it's kind of like pick your poison, really. Obviously with (Jamal) Crawford coming off the bench and him being able to score big numbers,
Joe Johnson and those guys, being able to play at a high level, (the Hawks) can put you in a tough situation, especially in Atlanta, where they play at another level. But you never really know what to expect with those guys.  But with Boston, you know it's going to be very physical, it's going to be a grind-out type of a game, every-possession-counts type of a game."

And finally, a quick word from Coach Spo:

"Certainly you want to get the best possible seed as you can.  Mentally, that is a bonus. But you can't play with the idea to try to manipulate and say, 'I want to play this team or that team.'  That would be messing with the basketball gods, and I don't think any team does that.  I think that's more for the fans and the media to speculate about those scenarios."

As to the game at hand, Miami is looking to complete a season sweep over a team for the 3rd straight game.  While the Nets are a lock for the NBA's worst record, as well as their worst season in franchise history, they have been playing much better of late.  Jersey has won 5 of their last 11, which is pretty darn good considering they had won just 7 of their previous 58.  Unfortunately for the Nets, their recent success began with a 4-2 stretch but since then they've won just one of their last five. 

I've been saying all year that I just don't get why New Jersey has been so bad.  Brook Lopez is a budding superstar and Devin Harris has well established himself as a premier point guard in this league.  Their roster has several decent players (Courtney Lee, Yi Jianlian, Chris Douglas-Roberts, to name a few) and I feel that should absolutely merit wins in the 20-25 range.  I'm not saying they are all-stars by any means, but 12 wins??  They should definitely be better then that.

GAME NOTES

  • New Jersey rookie forward Terrance Williams has been playing quite well of late, averaging 17.0 points, 7.1 boards and 7.1 in his last 7 games.  He's coming off a great game against the Bobcats where he recorded 21 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists. 
  • For the Nets, forward Jarvis Hayes (ankle) is out.  On the Heat's injured list is just Jermaine O'Neal, officially listed as questionable with a sprained left ankle. 
  • Since the beginning of March the Heat have gone 9-3 at the AAA, winning 3 of their last 4. 
  • This will likely be the last game for Nets interim coach Kiki Vandeweghe, who is expected to return to the ‘full time' GM role. 
  • Welcome back, Chris Quinn.  This will be his first game back in Miami since the Heat traded him for Rafer Alston (who?) back in January.  Do you think anyone expected the Nets would get the better end of that deal?
  • Udonis Haslem saved the day with his game winning jumper on Monday night in Philly, but that game broke his streak of 5-straight games with double digit rebounds when he grabbed ‘just' 5.  Still, he's been en fuego for el Heat over the past month or so. In his last 10 games, U-D is shooting 60% from the field while averaging 13.2 points and 10.5 boards. 

Tipoff will be at 8pm, thirty minutes later then usual. The Heat plan on having massive amounts of giveaways throughout the evening for Fan Appreciation Night, and I'm willing to bet that the majority of the prizes will be pretty cool; this is a franchise that has always known how to treat their fans. 

Enjoy this one guys, because its your last chance to watch a game while sitting back all comfortable, with your legs up.  Once the second season begins we'll be sitting at the edge of our seats, leaning towards the T.V. and screaming about every Wade dunk and Chalmers turnover.