The most anticipated home opener in Brooklyn Nets history will take place tonight, when the Nets (0-1) host the Miami Heat (1-1) at Barclays Center. The Nets lost on the road Wednesday in Cleveland despite a 4th quarter comeback led by Jason Terry, while Miami shockingly lost in Philadelphia on Wednesday after beating Chicago at home on their opening night. Also of note is that this will be the third time these two teams are seeing each other this year, even though the first two were in the preseason and were both blowout wins for Brooklyn.
The Nets have been thinking about this game since the NBA calendar got released in August. It is their first real chance to show off their team against an NBA contender in Miami. Of course, Miami has definitely circled this game as well. Lebron and Dwyane Wade hate Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and would like nothing more than to spoil their home opener in Brooklyn.
History is not on the Nets’ side tonight. They haven’t beaten Lebron James since he was in Cleveland. They also haven’t beaten the Heat since 2009. However, Paul Pierce is 15-15 in the regular season against Lebron, better than almost anyone.
Injuries: Deron Williams remains on a minutes limit, but should get more playing time than on Wednesday, perhaps as many as 30 minutes if needed. He should be coming off a minutes restriction soon. Andrei Kirilenko will play his first game as a Net tonight, but will probably only go for 10-12 minutes. The Nets got Kirilenko to guard guys like Lebron, so they really would like to use him more tonight, but his back may prevent that from happening. Dwyane Wade, who rested on Wednesday, will be back tonight for Miami. Jason Kidd will miss this game, the second of his two-game suspension.
Deron Williams vs. Mario Chalmers. Advantage: Williams
Mario Chalmers has looked more like a pesky defender this preseason, leading the NBA in preseason steals. But on offense, he is not much more than a spot-up shooter, and Lebron James is the real point guard on this team. If Deron looks like himself tonight, he should be able to get some good looks against Chalmers and Norris Cole, who is barely 6 feet tall.
Joe Johnson vs. Dwyane Wade. Advantage: Wade
Wade is definitely past his prime, but is still better than 90% of the shooting guards in the NBA. It definitely helped for him to rest on Wednesday in Philadelphia to keep his legs fresh. I was disappointed with Joe Johnson on Wednesday. He did not get nearly as many open shots as I expected. Hopefully he will get more tonight.
Paul Pierce vs. Lebron James. Advantage: James
Lebron is still the best basketball player in the world until further notice. But even at 36 years old, Paul Pierce is still his arch-rival. Pierce and Garnett will definitely try to trash talk Lebron and get into his head tonight. Hopefully that doesn’t fire him up anymore than he will be already.
Kevin Garnett vs. Chris Bosh. Advantage: Garnett
Even though Chris Bosh is technically the center on this team, I expect Kevin Garnett to defend him because he is quicker than Brook Lopez and he will be able to contest Bosh’s 3-pointers better than Lopez will. Bosh often disappears in big games and that could be the case tonight.
Brook Lopez vs. Udonis Haslem. Advantage: Lopez
This is a game that Brook Lopez has been talking about for a long time and I expect him to take over. He needs to be aggressive on offense, especially on the offensive boards. Remember, Miami is one of the smallest and worst rebounding teams in the NBA and they often struggle against dominant centers, such as Lopez or Roy Hibbert.
Bold prediction: Brook Lopez will have a double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds.
Score prediction: Heat 103, Nets 100. The Nets will put up a very good fight, but Miami doesn’t want to fall under .500. The Nets are still getting to know one another and they should have a better chance to beat Miami later on in the season.