Wade, Bosh Handle Nets in Miami


Two nights removed from a near monumental collapse in Orlando, the Brooklyn Nets traveled south to Miami to take on the Heat. Last game, Brooklyn saw a 24 point lead disappear in the fourth quarter only to hang on by the skin of their teeth. It was the Nets third win in a row and sixth out of their last seven games. At this current juncture of the season, Brooklyn and Miami are jockeying for position in the Eastern Conference for the bottom two seeds. This recent Nets surge has allowed them to climb a game behind the Bucks and needed to keep pace with Milwaukee taking on the Knicks.

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Lionel Hollins, once again stuck to his winning formula with the lineup combination of Jack, Johnson, Garnett, Plumlee and Karasev. Similar to the Bulls game, the Nets were facing another team that they had yet to figure out this entire season and a win would push their season-high winning streak to four games. They would have to wait another month to accomplish that as Miami held off a late Brooklyn comeback to inch closer to the Nets and the 7th seed in the East.

After a sluggish start from the field, Brooklyn were able force turnovers and make shots to get them back into the game. However, it seemed each time the Nets made a run late in the game, it was answered by Miami’s new and Lebron-less “big three”. Brookyln never led in the game and the Heat made it their mission to prevent the Nets from gaining any serious momentum by getting to the free throw line and cutting down the pace of the game.

The smaller athletic lineup for the heat consisting of Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade once again caused havoc for the Nets. Miami was able to force turnovers push the ball in transition and get to the free-throw line early to build a lead it in the first quarter.

Dwyane Wade and his oft-injured knees looked great early on and the set the tone for the Heat. Wade had no problem getting to the basket, in addition to his counterpart Chris Bosh who punished the Nets all night, inside and out. In a low-scoring game where baskets were hard to come by, Wade and Bosh took over the game late and propelled the Heat through, making the most of their possessions with great ball movement. Thus, creating high percentage shots as Miami shot 47% on only 67 shots for the entire game. Miami was also able to get to the foul line at double the rate of Brooklyn and hit their free throws when they had the opportunity late in the game.

Jarrett Jack was ineffective in the first quarter spelling Deron Williams from the bench, providing a quick spark and remained as a main source of offense for the rest of the game. The bench was once again another positive for Brooklyn as they outscored Miami’s reserves 43-21. Williams posted another strong performance off the bench before leaving the game with a strained oblique at the time. It has now been downgraded to a cramp and expects to play tonight against Dallas.

Williams tallied 13 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists in 26 minutes and was one of the reasons why the Nets were able to hang around the entire game. Hollins reiterated that Deron and Brook will remain on the bench in 2015 for the time being and it has certainly caused a spark from the second unit. Second quarters have been a major plus lately and the inclusion of those two in the reverses has certainly helped.

In conjunction with the Lenn Robbins tweet above, the Nets once again slowed their game down to the Heat’s level (last in NBA in pace) and it severely affected their offense. Without Lebron, the Heat are a completely different team, relying on perimeter passing and high percentage looks to wear down their opponents. Brooklyn, who had been experiencing an uptick in tempo and offensive efficiency were held to only 84 points. This has been a common theme when these two teams link up and will need to adjust for their next meeting on March 11th. Additionally, per the Miami Heat’s research department, the Nets are now 1-13 when scoring under 94 points in a game. The combination of a slow tempo Heat squad and a poor shooting night great attributed to the loss.

Mason Plumlee was extremely active the entire game, taking advantage of a small Miami lineup scoring 12 points and adding 7 boards. In addition to Kevin Garnett, they were able to keep possessions alive by boxing out and grabbing key offensive rebounds resulting in second chance shots. However, Chris Anderson and Hassan Whiteside gave Brooklyn fits the entire night and couldn’t take advantage of those opportunities. Whiteside, the journeyman had one of his best games as a pro and caused problems in the paint.

“I thought we fought hard…We had our opportunities, maybe missed a lot of chippies, open shots that we normally make.” – Joe Johnson

I’ve yet to figure out why the Nets cannot overcome the hump that is the Miami Heat. Is it possible that their most recent playoff loss still looms large in their psyche months later? The odds that these two teams meet in the playoffs – if they even make – are extremely unlikely but this is still a playoff caliber team in the East. These type of games must translate into wins sooner or later or their playoff chances will fall by the wayside.

Quick turnaround for the Nets tomorrow as they face the red-hot Dallas Mavericks in Brooklyn on Monday night as they hope to rebound in the second game of a travel-filled back-to-back. After tonight, Brooklyn plays three more games to end the week against sub-.500 squads. Two home games against division rivals Celtics and Sixers and a quick trip to Detroit to face the Pistons who have thrived since the departure of Josh Smith.

A split for the Nets this week should be the worst case scenario as a grueling schedule to end the month awaits, including Houston, two games against Washington, Toronto, Atlanta and Memphis. As of today, Brooklyn has the lowest strength of schedule and have thrived off of winning against the lesser teams in the NBA. If the Nets want to be taken seriously in the Eastern Conference and want to advance into a top seed, they’ll need to start winning games against tougher competition.

Brooklyn was in the same predicament last season and strung together impressive wins down the stretch to finish over .500 after a rocky start. If you’re still trying to figure out this team’s identity and their potential, you should have a pretty clear picture once February hits.

Go Nets.

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