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Yet another crucial game for Nets, this one in Miami

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NBA: Miami Heat at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Brooklyn took a loss to the Hornets at home on Friday night in a game that was significant for more than one reason. First and foremost, the Nets were healthy for the first time since October 2017, and second, because they’re still fighting for playoff seeding as we near the stretch run of the season. They’ll play Miami on a back-to-back and try and salvage some positivity from this weekend. The Nets still hold the sixth seed by a game over the Detroit Pistons.

The Heat, who will not be playing on a back-to-back, are still fighting for a playoff seed as Dwyane Wade winds down his career. They’re currently at the bottom of the Hornets, Pistons, Nets, Magic scrum that encompasses the six seed to the ten seed. No game that happens on the second half of a back-to-back is easy, but this one would be a big win. Let’s get into it.

Where To Follow The Game

YES and WFAN at 7:30 pm, ET.

Injuries

The Nets have a clean slate.

James Johnson (shoulder) has missed four straight and is listed as day-to-day while Hassan Whiteside (hip) had missed two straight and is also listed as day-to-day.

The Game

Dwyane Wade is having his best three point shooting season in the final year of his long and illustrious career, shooting 32 percent on a career high 3.6 attempts per game. What’s that? Oh you think those numbers aren’t very good? Well, you’re correct reader. Good looks. Wade is one of the four or five best shooting guards of all time, winning three championships and guiding the Heat through what has been essentially 15 straight years of success. He also can barely shoot threes. It’s okay though, because neither could Kobe or MJ. @ me on Twitter I’m ready for your takes! Haters, stay mad!!

Regardless, Wade is in the stretch run of his basketball career, and he’s playing like he’s trying to drag one last Heat team into the playoffs on his back. 17.7 points in his last six is a solid number for a guard who’s almost forty.

Miami’s actual best player, Josh Richardson, is averaging 17.5 points, 4 assists, and 3.6 assists on 41/37/86 shooting for the season. He’s a pretty big 6’6 shooting guard who excels even more on defense than he does on offense. He’s going to be a problem for Brooklyn’s big three guards, D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, and Spencer Dinwiddie. He can hit threes better than pretty much else on the Miami roster and is capable of carrying a larger scoring load with 10 games of 24 or more points this season. (Richardson was taken in the 2015 immediately after Juan Pablo Vaulet.)

Caris LeVert is starting to look a little more comfortable, playing 23 minutes and filling out the box score with 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists. It feels like Caris more than anyone else on the Nets has that almost Kawhi-like ability to finish a game and make you think oh wow 7 boards and 4 assists? He was kind of everywhere wasn’t he? Caris glides around the floor because he can kind of exist anywhere. It isn’t weird seeing him handling the ball, or catching and shooting in the corner or on the wing, or guarding a point guard or a small forward, or taking the ball to the bucket. He’s almost never out of place due to his versatility. The only time he might seem like he’s in a situation he shouldn’t be would be what? A post up? No one on the Nets really posts up anyway so that’s barely even an option. It’s just nice having the Swiss Army Knife back on the court and in games against teams like the Heat who have a plethora of dangerous wings and guards, Caris is invaluable.

If we eliminated the second quarter of Friday nights game, the Nets would have won 94-86 against the Hornets. An atrocious second quarter, during which Charlotte outscored Brooklyn 37-18, was the biggest difference. The high men in minutes for the Nets were D’Angelo Russell and Joe Harris who each played 28, so we might see some relatively fresh legs tomorrow despite the back-to-back. It’s always tough to win the second half, but this game is important and the Nets need to show up.

Miami struggles on offense, scoring just 105.7 points per game, 27th in the league. They also are the owners of a 106.6 Offensive Rating, 26th in the league, and 24th ranked 44.9% shooting from the field. Where Miami excels is on defense, where they rank 9th in Defensive Rating at 107.8 and allow a 5th best 106.6 points per game. For those of you keeping score at home, allowing more points than you score will have you ending up with a -1.1 plus/minus, which is what the Heat have. The Nets have a -0.5 plus/minus, for the record.

Spencer Dinwiddie looked pretty solid in his triumphant return, playing 23 minutes and scoring 15 points on 6/13 shooting. He blew past defenders on a couple of occasions and while he did look a little bit rusty, that’s to be expected. He hit a couple of threes late in the game, showing confidence in his injured shooting hand. Hopefully he gets hot soon and helps carry this second-unit Nets offense in the way they need him to.

Player To Watch

In his last 28 games, Justise Winslow is putting up 14.4 points, 4.9 assists, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game while shooting 44/38/62. He’s handling the ball a lot more often, and him and Richardson combine to make a scary defensive duo in the backcourt and on the wings. Winslow has a weird body, and I am a giant fan of weird bodies. I just think variance, if it isn’t detrimental to health, can produce a unique and impactful set of skills. Winsloe is 6’7 and built like an absolute tank. Barrel chest, strong legs and arms. He looks like a defensive end. Him and the Heat are finally figuring out the best way to utilize him on the court, and Miami locked him up to a pretty team-friendly extension that will pay him $13 million a year for the next three seasons following this one with a team option on that third year. Absolute steal.

From The Vault

Here’s a little throwback for you guys.

Enjoy