It was only nine months ago that the Nets were celebrating their fourth win of the regular season against the defending champion Miami Heat, after rookie Mason Plumlee swatted reigning MVP LeBron James as the clock ran out, sealing an 88-87 victory and season sweep.
Since then, the Heat (14-20) has defeated the Nets (16-16) in six of the last seven meetings, including last year’s five-game playoff win, and two wins this season at Barclays Center minus the aforementioned James — who does his dunking in Cleveland these days.
Since their last game against the Nets, a 95-91 victory on December 16th that featured a “rain delay,” the Heat have cooled off, losing seven of nine games, including a 115-79 thrashing by the Rockets Saturday night in Houston. The Heat currently resides eighth in the Eastern Conference, and for the first time in seven years, have fallen six games under the .500 mark. Dwyane Wade, who for the 11th straight game either led or tied for the team lead in scoring, does not see the season slipping away.
“I’m not worried about that yet,” Wade said, via the Palm Beach Post. “There will come a time when I worry about that. Right now I’m just worried about the way that we’re competing and the way we’re losing games. If you keep losing this way and letting them go, then the season gets away from you. We don’t want that at all.”
The Nets, who are tied with Milwaukee for sixth in the Eastern Conference, have been on the upswing lately. They’ve won six of seven games, finally reaching the elusive .500 mark for the first time since November 13th on Friday night. Despite a disappointing fourth quarter (to put it mildly) Friday night, when they were outscored 37-14 by the Orlando Magic, the Nets have found their groove on offense since coach Lionel Hollins inserted Jarrett Jack and Mason Plumlee into the starting lineup. The Nets shot a scorching 56.9 percent from the field against Orlando, and received significant contributions off the bench led by Brook Lopez (16 points, 8 rebounds) and Deron Williams (16 points, 7 assists).
Hollins has yet to hint of a lineup change publicly, and appears comfortable with the status quo as long as the positive results roll in.
Due to a recent assignment to the D-League, The Nets will not see rookie guard Shabazz Napier, who hurt them last meeting with 11 points off the bench. They will see Chris Bosh, who missed their last meeting with injury. Bosh, the nine time All-Star, is having another strong season, averaging 21.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Despite Bosh’s efforts, the Heat rank dead last in rebounding for the second straight year.
- Josh McRoberts likely will miss the remainder of the season due to the torn meniscus he suffered in mid-December.
- Danny Granger has received a spike in minutes the past seven games, averaging 24 minutes per game, and could continue to see more time if Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole’s maligned shooting this season continues.
Tipoff is at 6:00 P.M. EST at American Airlines Arena in Miami.