Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat to battle for Eastern Conference supremacy

Mike Ehrmann

Who would have believed it? Fifteen games into the season and the Nets are going into Miami with an chance at taking over the lead in the Eastern Conference! Brooklyn at 11-4 and riding their second five game winning streak of the season, will play Miami who's only a half game better at 11-3. A Nets win Saturday night would give them a half-game lead over the Heat and the Knicks, who are idle. As Kris Humphries said after Friday's win, "Five in a row, but the one that we need is tomorrow night in Miami."

Whoosh.

Of course, the Heat blew out the Nets by 30 earlier in the season and Brooklyn will be without Brook Lopez for the second straight game. But as Deron Williams says, the Nets will have Gerald Wallace, who was hurt for that first game, and are playing better all around, particularly on defense. In fact, the win over Orlando Friday night vaulted the Nets into the the seventh spot in defensive efficiency and second spot in points allowed, just behind Memphis. Avery Johnson, who's looking more like a leading candidate for Coach of the Year every game, had hoped the Nets could be a top 10 defensive team. No one believed him. Actually, they're better than that! They're not that far out of fifth!

Whoosh.

For Miami, the game is a big one as well. They too have a five-game winning streak and are undefeated, 7-0, at home. Both teams are 8-2 over the last 10. Only the Grizzlies, at 9-1, are hotter. The Heat are the best shooting team in the NBA, just a tad below 50 percent. They're also the best three-point shooting team, at 43 percent. Where they fall down is in rebounding (29th) and defensive efficiency (26th). There's also been some sniping at Dwyane Wade whose athleticism has been sapped by nagging foot injuries. At 31, he needs to compensate but his three point shooting percentage is a mere 16.7 percent.

Of course, the Heat have the best player in the game in LeBron James, the likely starting center for the East come the All-Star Game in Chris Bosh, the leading three point shooter in NBA history in Ray Allen and a lot of other talent. But the bottom line is simple: the Nets and Heat are in the same sentence when talking about Eastern Conference supremacy.

WHOOSH!

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