So, that last week was brutal.
Despite a few encouraging spurts in all three games of their west coast road trip, the Nets lacked cohesion and continuity, ending in three losses. Tonight’s game against the Miami Heat can be a starting point for a unit that desperately needs to get on the same page.
Like the Nets (4-5), the Heat (5-5) are in the midst of a three-game losing streak. With LeBron James’s departure (have you heard?), Erik Spoelstra’s team is looking to establish themselves as a legitimate contender.
Guard Dwyane Wade and forward Josh McRoberts have missed the last two games due to injury, and may miss tonight’s game.
Last year, the Nets famously swept the Heat in four close games; three decided by one point and the fourth in double-overtime. This year, the team is still looking for its identity. After a 3-0 start, Miami has lost five of seven, relinquishing their hold on a Southeast division to Washington.
Despite the absence of King James, the Nets will entertain a familiar cast. Chris Bosh is off to a hot start, averaging 20.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, but his shooting is down to an alarming 41 percent, well down from his career percentage of 49.6. The addition of ex-Bulls forward and two time All-Star Luol Deng has helped restore scoring, rebounding, and defense to the Heat’s starting five. Deng is averaging 14.3 points per game on 48 percent shooting and should become more comfortable as the season progresses.
Other key additions for the Heat are first round draft pick Shabazz Napier, who most will remember help Connecticut win the National Title this past year, and journeyman Shawne Williams, an ex-Nets forward, now playing for his sixth team in seven NBA seasons. Williams has taken advantage of the playing time Spoelstra’s given him, averaging 12 points on 53 percent shooting in 28.1 minutes per game. Williams, as Nets fans can recall, has always been an erratic player, stifled by poor shot selection and shoddy defense, but so far he’s been a solid addition for Miami. Napier has been getting consistent minutes off the bench, spelling Wade, Norris Cole, and Mario Chalmers.
So how will Lionel Hollins stagger tonight’s minutes? Brook Lopez, coming off a bounce-back game offensively, will be tested guarding Bosh, who likes to spend time at length on the perimeter. Bosh talked about getting into the post more this season, but is averaging a career-high 3.7 three-point attempts per game, and will probably look to draw Lopez out of the paint. Lopez has struggled this year defensively, and the Heat will be looking to exploit that via dribble-drives; chasing Bosh around the three-point arc will cause more problems. But that’s why they pay Hollins the big bucks, right?
The Nets should look more comfortable tonight at Barclays Center. Deron Williams has looked encouraging, playing with energy and confidence, looking fully healthy for the first time in a while. The Nets will need to rely on Williams to gel the offense, which has struggled mightily these past three games. It’s still early in the season; the Nets need to feed off their Brooklyn fans to get a win and back up to .500.