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Nets in Florida to face Heat

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NBA: Chicago Bulls at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

It is a rare and beautiful thing for Brooklyn to win a game that they led wire-to-wire, but that’s what happened in Orlando on Wednesday night when the Nets defeated the Magic, 111-104. Never mind that the Magic locker room looked like a World War I infirmary (compete with tank). A win is a win is a win.

The Nets are still in sunny Florida Saturday night after one of the longest rests of the season. They face the Heat, the perennial playoff team who are fighting the Bucks and Wizards for the sixth through eighth seeds. The game is a late start, 8 p.m.

The Heat, who’ve been off since Thursday themselves, are on a two-game winning streak after smothering the Cavaliers and beating the Bulls. They’ve also won eight straight at home.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Tip off after 8.

Injuries

For the Nets, Isaiah Whitehead is out with a sprained right wrist. No word on how it happened or how long it will sideline him.

Tyler Johnson is probable after leaving Thursday’s game with a sprained right ankle. Hassan Whiteside can be expected to get more minutes vs. the Nets after returning Thursday from a strained left hip flexor that cost him nine games.

The game

The Heat just keep rolling along despite injuries, lack of high draft picks, etc., etc. Everyone keeps waiting for them to collapse. It doesn’t happen. Credit Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley. This season is no different. A win Saturday and they’re in the playoffs again, the 20th time in the last 30 seasons.

The Heat and the Bucks are now both 41-35 and tied for the seventh and eighth spots in the East. The Wizards have a half-game lead over both at 41-34. There’s no doubt they’ll again make the playoffs. They and the Bucks have a four-and-a-half game edge on the disappointing Pistons. As Hot Hot Hoops, our sister blog notes, the Heat hold the tiebreakers with both teams, in case Miami winds up with the same record as either one of them.

Miami won the first game, 101-89, in Mexico City, were convincingly defeated, 111-87, in the second meeting, and squandered a 16-point lead in the third one. So a win Saturday and the Nets will have won the season series with Miami for the first time since 2013-14 when they swept the LeBron James-led Heat only to lose to them in the second round. It will be the first time the Nets will face Dwyane Wade in a Heat uniform this season. He’s averaging 12.8 points shooting 42 percent from the floor with Miami in 22 minutes a game.

The Nets have shot well the last seven games, mainly due to a relatively healthy line-up and some hot shooting from three. In the last seven, the Nets have an offensive rating of 113.2, fourth in the NBA, well above their season-long rating of 104.4.

Over the last seven games the Nets are shooting 40.7 percent from 3-point range, with Joe Harris (53.6), Caris LeVert (45.8), Allen Crabbe (44.1), and DeMarre Carroll (43.9) all shooting over 40 percent. In those same seven games, D’Angelo Russell is averaging seven assists a game and 15.6 points a game, with highs of 13 assists and 22 points and struck the Nets first triple double in seven years.

The Nets are 3-4 over that stretch.

Player to Watch: Dwyane Wade

This will be the first time the Nets will face Dwyane Wade in a Heat uniform this season. He was traded from the Cavs to the Heat and the deadline. Since then, he’s averaging 12.8 points shooting 42 percent from the floor with Miami in 22 minutes a game. His 3-point game is hurting, at 22.2 percent.

The Nets killer scored 18 points, handed out five assists and shot 8-of-13 in his only games vs. Brooklyn this year, a Cavs win back in November. With Tyler Johnson recovering from his mild ankle sprain, don’t be surprised if Spoelstra ups his minutes.

From the Vault

Playoffs second round, 2014. The Nets had swept the Heat in the regular season. In NBA history, no team that had been swept in the regular season had ever come back and won a playoff series against that same team. There were endless stories, including this analytic feast, noting that. Still ... LeBron.

James came into Brooklyn in critical game four and decided he needed to upend history. He scored 49 points and the Heat made history.

More reading: Hot Hot Hoops