While the Heat are the clear-cut number one team in the East, the Nets are struggling to gain recognition and respect after bottom dwelling for the past few years.
Tonight’s game will provide some of the more interesting storylines for the season moving forward.
Can The Nets Hang With the Big Boys?
The Nets have played solid basketball this year, very solid basketball under interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo. They’ve gone 13-4 since Carlesimo replaced Avery Johnson, collecting wins over playoff contenders such as the Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks during that stretch.
Yet, it seems no one is taking the Nets seriously. If they are able to pull out a victory tonight over the Heat, tomorrow morning we will wake up to all the talking heads on TV telling us how the Nets can win the title.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s only one game; but the Nets could gain some serious respect if they win.
Momentum Moving Forward
Six out the Nets’ next eight games, including tonight, are against playoff contenders. Five contenders, actually—sorry, I forgot the Lakers aren’t a lock in for the playoffs anymore like in any normal season.
Either way, after tonight the Nets play the Chicago Bulls, Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, Pacers and Denver Nuggets in a two-week period. This is a key stretch for the Nets if they want to become legitimate contenders, and lucky for them five of those six games come at home (they also have away games at lowly Detroit and Washington sandwiched in between).
Getting a victory tonight would provide a nice start to a tough stretch.
Do the Nets Get Revenge?
The previous two games between these two have been blowouts. Miami won 103-73 early in the season and later won 102-89 in early December, meaning the Nets will have to win tonight to avoid being swept in the season series.
Brook Lopez missed the second game against the Heat, so his presence will change the game enormously. If the Heat struggle at one thing it's defending opposing big men. Lopez should be primed for a big game tonight against on of the league's worst interior teams.
For the Nets to win tonight they will have to take better care of the ball and that starts with Deron Williams. In the two games against the Heat, Williams has 11 turnovers as he has struggled with Miami's defensive pressure.
If he, and the rest of the Nets, can protect the ball and get quality shots, they should have a chance to win tonight with the home crowd behind them.
Miami’s First Trip to Brooklyn
Having absolutely nothing to do with basketball, this will be Miami’s first trip to the Nets’ new arena in Brooklyn.
LeBron and Jay-Z are close friends, so maybe there will be a little fireworks between the two tonight. I wouldn’t expect it to suddenly turn into a Spike Lee-Reggie Miller feud, but it should be interesting, nonetheless.