Tonight, the Brooklyn Nets will be in Miami for their first road game of the season to face the defending champion Miami Heat. The Nets (1-1) are coming off one of the worst losses I have ever witnessed, losing by 11 after being ahead by 22 to a team missing its best two players. The Heat (3-1) easily beat the Phoenix Suns on Monday by playing their best game so far in the early season. Their only loss was against the New York Knicks because of a ridiculously high 3-point percentage from New York.
Let’s first talk a little bit more about Miami. Lebron James finally got his ring last season when Miami defeated Oklahoma City in 5 games in the NBA Finals. Then, Lebron went to London, along with Deron Williams, to earn his second gold medal in the Olympics. It has definitely been a good year for “The King”. In the offseason, Miami added Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, two sharpshooters that will kill the Nets in this game if they leave their guys to help on any of the Big 3.
Moving on to the Nets, who beat the Toronto Raptors and lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves this year. On paper, Miami should win this game and Brooklyn will need to play a near-perfect game to get a W. However, the Nets are coming off of an embarrassing loss and might play a really motivated game because of it. There are a few things they will need to do in order to win this game.
Firstly, they need to continue the ball movement that they had in the first 2-and-a-half quarters against Minnesota. Miami’s defense has looked a little bit shaky in the early season and the Nets could take advantage of it. They will need to continue hitting their long range shots. Secondly, they need to feed Brook Lopez and get Miami into foul trouble. Brook will need to take at least 10 free throws in this game for the Nets to have a chance. Thirdly, on defense, the Nets need to stay on shooters and don’t leave to help. If Joe Johnson is guarding Ray Allen, he cannot leave to help on Lebron James or Dwyane Wade. If anybody helps, it should be a guy who will not be leaving a good shooter open.
Injuries: For Brooklyn, Gerald Wallace will be reevaluated tomorrow morning at shootaround. I don’t think he will play because this is an early-season game and is not very important. I think he will only play if he is close to 100%. Josh Childress will also be a game-time decision. Miami has no significant injuries.
Deron Williams vs. Mario Chalmers. Advantage: Williams
Chalmers took a big step in the playoffs last season and is no longer a liability to the Heat. Still, he is not the focal point of their offense or defense and will really just bring the ball up and become a spot-up shooter. Deron Williams is an all-star point guard with a lot to prove. Deron knows that this is an important game especially after Monday’s loss and I expect him to have a very good game, maybe scoring 25 points with 12 assists.
Joe Johnson vs. Dwyane Wade. Advantage: Wade
This is a great matchup of superstar shooting guards who have taken back seat roles recently, JJ to Deron Williams and Wade to Lebron James. Johnson has faced the Heat many times when he was in Atlanta and there was somewhat of a one-sided rivalry there with the Heat winning most of the games. Unlike in some past games, Johnson will not be able to just post up on Wade and get an easy shot off. He is going to have to work for everything. Wade is an excellent defender and Lebron James will be there to help if Johnson tries to do any iso plays.
Keith Bogans (?) vs. LeBron James. Advantage: James
I am assuming that Gerald Wallace will miss this game with an ankle injury, although he may decide tomorrow morning that he can play. If Wallace can’t play, Bogans is a solid defender, but he will not be able to stop Lebron James. The one way Bogans will be able to help the Nets will be if he can continue hitting his corner 3’s as he did in Monday’s game. This will prevent Lebron leaving Bogans to help with either Dwyane Wade or Mario Chalmers. However, the Heat may just stick Shane Battier on Bogans, leave Humphries relatively open, and have Lebron helping wherever he is needed. This will not be good for Brooklyn.
Kris Humphries vs. Shane Battier. Advantage: Battier
This is yet another bad matchup for The Hump. Battier likes shooting 3’s and Humphries does not like guarding around the 3-point line. If I am Avery Johnson, I really don’t know if I even want to start Humphries in this game because it is such a bad matchup. Battier may burn the Nets by hitting 4 or 5 3’s tonight.
Brook Lopez vs. Chris Bosh. Advantage: Tie
This will be a fun matchup to watch. Although many people do not like Chris Bosh, I am a big fan, at least on offense. Both these players will score 20+ points tonight, but Brook Lopez will need to have a really good game if the Nets are to win. I think he will bounce back after a subpar performance on Monday.
Prediction: Nets 109, Heat 106
Although Miami clearly has the better roster, I just have a feeling that the Nets will find a way to win this game. The Heat’s defense early on this year has not looked very good and the Nets may take advantage of that. It will definitely be a high scoring game. The Nets are mad about what happened on Monday and they are talented enough to beat Miami if they have a good gameplan. Don’t be surprised to see the Nets come away with a victory tonight.