The Brooklyn Nets have a chance to make an early statement when they play host to the two-time defending champion Miami Heat in their home opener Friday night at Barclays Center. Here’s what we’ll be watching for:
STOPPING THE SKID: The Nets have lost to the Heat 13 straight times. They have lost to LeBron James 17 straight times. They are 0-9 against Miami’s Big 3 of James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. Deron Williams said the Nets didn’t believe they could beat the Heat last season, but, with the additions of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, they believe they can now. Brook Lopez called it a “statement game.” Jason Kidd, who is not allowed to coach because he’s serving the final game of his two-game suspension for DWI, disagreed, saying it’s only “Game 2.” Joe Prunty will once again coach the Nets in Kidd’s place. Miami is coming off a stunning loss to the Sixers, while the Nets dropped their opener in Cleveland.
PLAYOFF INTENSITY? You saw it in the two preseason games between the two teams. Remember that hard foul Pierce delivered on James in Brooklyn? Remember the back-and-forth between James and so-called “hypocrites” KG and Pierce? Surely you do. So do they. Both teams realize that staying healthy is the most important thing during the regular season. But the Nets can send a message to the Heat that they’re for real.
ADDITION OF AK-47: Andrei Kirilenko, who missed the season opener because of back spasms, will make his regular-season debut Friday night. He will be on a minutes limit. So will D-Will, who figures to see an increase from the 22 minutes he saw Wednesday night. AK-47 will likely see some time defending James.
CONTRASTING STYLES: The Heat want to get up and down the court and cause havoc in transition. Meanwhile, the Nets want to take advantage of their height and size on the interior, and play a more half-court oriented game. Kirilenko figures whoever dictates pace will win the game.