The standings say that the Heat and Nets are separated by just three games.
The recent records—13-4 for Brooklyn, 8-6 for Miami—suggest that P.J. Carlesimo's rejuvenated team is a serious threat to pass the Heat soon.
And perhaps that's possible if the Heat continues to struggle for motivation over the course of the long season.
But the Nets still need to prove something.
They need to prove, first, that they can keep a game against LeBron James close.
James has beaten the Nets—whether they hailed from the swamp or the sparkling new Barclays Center—16 straight times. He has beaten them eight straight times while in a Heat uniform. And he has beaten them twice, easily, this season at home.
In the first meeting, Miami romped by 30.
In the second, Miami started slow, then rolled over the Nets by 22 in the second half to pull away by 11.
In both cases, Avery Johnson was the coach, and the Nets have been better against the rest of the league since Carlesimo took over. And the Nets certainly have talent, especially in the starting lineup. But Miami has shown that it can get to another gear in the postseason.
So it will take significant progress in several areas for the Nets to become a threat to Miami.
(All quotes in this piece were collected as part of the writer's coverage of the Miami Heat for the Palm Beach Post. All statistics are updated as of Tuesday afternoon.)