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Nets wrap up homestand vs Heat

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NBA: Preseason-Miami Heat at Brooklyn Nets Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

Out of time. The Brooklyn Nets fell behind by a bunch against the San Antonio Spurs, fought back, but ultimately lost in front of the home fans on Wednesday night. Same story, different day.

The opponent tonight will be the Miami Heat. Despite it all, Erik Spoelstra has his guys overachieving and in the upper half of the Eastern Conference.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Tip off after 7:30.

Injuries

D’Angelo Russell is listed as available for tonight’s contest! DLo will likely return to action after missing 33 games over two months. During that period, the Nets were 11-22. No word yet on minutes restrictions, but don’t expect a long stretch his first game back.

Dion Waiters is out for the season thanks to an injured ankle. Almost Net, Tyler Johnson, is out for this game due to a sprained right ankle.

The game

Miami won the first game in early December while Brooklyn took the second one in late December.

Possibly having Russell back will do wonders for the Nets. He’s been out since mid-November and the Nets offense has struggled more times than not with him gone. If he does play, he should be around 15 minutes or so. Russell is too important for Brooklyn’s long-term success to just throw back into the fray. Gotta ease him back slowly.

Wayne Ellington has brought a lot to the table for Miami. He’s averaging a career-high seven three-point attempts a night and is shooting 40.7 percent from deep. For Allen Crabbe and Caris Levert, they’ll be spending a lot of time chasing the former Net off the three-point line. Ellington averages 7.4 points a game on catch and shoot opportunities, tied for tenth-best in the NBA.

Spo has been one of the best coaches in the league since he got the Heat job in 2008, and as Leonard Kreicas of Hot Hot Hoops explains:

Coach Erik Spoelstra can mix up the Heat’s looks with either a slow pace, a small ball approach, a traditional center game, a modified zone look, a fast-paced cutting offense, etc. NBA teams are very, very smart, and figure out coverages on the fly. Mixing up the calls keeps them honest.

If Jahlil Okafor sees a lot of time on the court tonight, he’ll have his hands full. Since he came back from injury a few weeks ago, Hassan Whiteside has averaged 13 points, 10 rebounds and over two blocks a game while shooting 54 percent from the field and 78 percent from the free-throw line. Okafor and Jarrett Allen will be responsible for keeping Whiteside off the glass. If they can’t, Whiteside will make life hell for the Nets on both sides of the ball.

Player to watch: Goran Dragic

With Waiters Island closed for construction, Dragic will take the lead from the backcourt. Over the past 12 games, Dragic is averaging 19 points and six assists a night. His three-point shot isn’t there, but he can make up for it by driving to the basket more.

Spencer Dinwiddie needs a good game in the worst way. Over the last five games, Dinwiddie has shot a ghastly 25.4 percent from the field and 16.1 percent from three point range. It’ll be interesting to see how he and Russell mesh with one another. They only played 46 minutes together before Russell’s injury in November. Having two solid ball handlers in the starting five can open things up for a struggling Brooklyn offense.

From the Vault

We had some sad news to tend to on Wednesday, so let’s cheer things up a bit as we wrap up the work week. Wednesday was Sade’s 59th birthday, so let’s revisit one of my favorite tracks of hers.

And we can’t forget that Wednesday was also Aaliyah’s birthday, so let’s jam out as we get our day started.

More reading: Hot Hot Hoops