Opponent: Miami Heat
Location: American Airlines Arena
Watch: YES Network
The summary of tonight’s matchup between the Brooklyn Nets and the Miami Heat sounds a bit like one of those mock SAT math questions: a train leaves Brooklyn having lost 5 consecutive games, at the same time a train departs Miami on a 7-game win streak, where do they meet? Based on those facts alone, one would presume with a loss for the lowly Nets.
These two teams met at Barclays on Thursday in a game indicative of the diametrically opposed directions in which these two teams are currently moving. In a story all too familiar to any Net fan this season, the team from Brooklyn held an 18-point lead heading into the fourth, but couldn’t hold on to secure the win. Waiters’ Island torched the Nets in the closing frame, putting up 14, including the game-winner, as the Nets saw yet another game move irrevocably from the sparse win to the overcrowded loss column.
In last week’s game the Nets got 33 from Brook Lopez and 17 from Bojan Bogdanovic (with Caris LeVert adding in 12 off the bench), but once again those excellent individual performances were not enough to carry the NBA’s worst team (by a sizable margin) to victory. For a team with such an abysmal record like the Nets, you would assume they are just rolling over and playing dead game after game. While that has certainly happened this season, more often than not Brooklyn’s losses are games like the most recent tilt with Miami, where the Nets just can’t quite hold on to a big early lead and manage to somehow seize defeat from the jaws of victory.
Seven games ago, it would have been safe to say the Nets and Heat were peas in a pod, two celler-dwellers more likely to finish last in the league (intentionally on the Heats’ behalf, inadvertently on the Nets’) than grab the eighth seed. While the Heat are still most likely to end this season playing for ping-pong balls, their recent run has shown that a string of victories can really alter the present standing of a franchise. While the Nets would certainly take even a single victory at this point, they should look to the Heat for what it looks like when luck finally starts breaking your way.
3 Things to Watch for in Nets-Heat:
1. Now that the trade rumors are really flying, will the team’s focus start to wander?
Brook Lopez’s name has been in the pages of the NBA trade gossip columns since before the season even began, but now Bojan Bogdanovic is being linked to other teams as well. The two have been the most dependable offensive weapons for Brooklyn this season, will that reliability finally start to crumble now that they might be thinking about what it would be like to play for a team with a winning record?
2. With the Knicks on the Horizon, can the team focus on the present?
Speaking of looming distractions, with Brooklyn returning home on Wednesday to face the cross-town rival Knicks in a game more meaningful for basketball in the five boroughs than most anything else this season, will Brooklyn be caught looking ahead on the schedule tonight?
3. Do property values continue to rise on Waiters’ Island?
If you truly love the NBA, it’s hard not to love, or at least become fascinated with, the game of one Dion Waiters. No one has come to define ‘irrational confidence’ quite like the gunner who spent extended time with both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Oklahoma City Thunder thinking he was the best player on the court. Tonight, that fever-dream may actually be a reality. If he, once again, has the ball in his hand with the game on the line, things might not turn out well for the ice-cold Nets.