Saturday, December 1, 2012
W2W4: Nets at Heat
By Mike Mazzeo
At 11-4, the Brooklyn Nets are off to their best start in franchise history. They’ll try to increase their winning streak to six when they take on the Miami Heat on Saturday night in the final game of a three-game road trip. Here’s what we’ll be watching for:
GETTING EVEN: The last time these two squads met -- on Nov. 3 in Miami -- the Heat beat the Nets by 30. But Brooklyn is a different team now. The Nets have held their last five opponents under 90 points. The Heat come in ranked second in the NBA in points per game (104.8).
GUNNING FOR THE NO. 1 SPOT: If the Nets beat the Heat (11-3), they’d move into the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference. Wouldn’t that be incredible? For a franchise that had just 58 wins in its previous three seasons combined, you better believe it -- even this early in the season.
IT’S GOOD TO BE KING: In 31 career games against the Nets, LeBron James is averaging 27.8 points, 7.6 assists and 7.1 rebounds. On Nov. 3, he had 20 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists vs. Brooklyn in 30 minutes. Gerald Wallace and Keith Bogans will likely get the assignment of trying to contain James -- as they did Carmelo Anthony -- on Saturday night.
ZERO HERO: Andray Blatche is expected to make his second consecutive start at center in place of the injured Brook Lopez, who will once again sit out with a right foot sprain. Blatche had 14 points and nine rebounds in place of Lopez in Friday night’s victory over Orlando. It would’ve been nice to see the Nets take on the Heat at full strength, but they’re going to have to make due with what they have.
ANCHOR JOE: Joe Johnson is starting to live up to his contract. In his past five games, he’s shooting a cool 50.7 percent from the field. The Nets are going to need him to have another big game if they’re going to steal one from the Heat on Saturday night.
TIRED MUCH? Not only will the Nets be playing in the second half of a back-to-back, they’ll also be playing their fifth game in seven nights. Brooklyn coach Avery Johnson decided to rest veteran Jerry Stackhouse on Friday night for this exact reason. No one would blame the Nets if they come out sluggish, though they can’t really afford to against the defending champs.