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Heat to test Nets as Brooklyn tries to end losing streak

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Miami Heat v Orlando Magic Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images

Not it. The Brooklyn Nets had a chance to snap their six game losing streak against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night, but some last second miscues and a cold streak in overtime doomed them to their seventh straight loss. Times are hard on the boulevard.

The opponent tonight will be the Miami Heat. It’s been a better season than expected for Erik Spoelstra’s guys as they find themselves SECOND in the Eastern Conference with a 27-10 record and are a good bet to make the playoffs. They started a quick three-game road trip with a solid win in Indiana against the Pacers on Wednesday night. They’ll spend the weekend in NYC and wrap up by facing the Knicks in MSG on Sunday night.

Where to follow the game

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

Injuries

Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are out, but that’s it, unless you want to count Nicolas Claxton, who’s been assigned to Long Island or new two-way Chris Chiozza who has yet to suit up for Brooklyn. Kyrie and KD have been making progress in various ways. Read more about it here.

Justise Winslow returned to action Wednesday after being sidelined for a month due to a back injury. Derrick Jones Jr. (left inner thigh) is questionable. If he’s out, Winslow will have to test his back.

The game

Miami won the first matchup in December in a classic collapse. The Heat scored 14 of the last 17 points in a little more than four minutes. There were positives for the Nets in that game as Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris combined for 54 points and “Brooklyn Heights” — Jarrett Allen and DeAndre Jordan— combined for 27 points and 20 rebounds. That kind of contribution would be appreciated Friday night.

For the Nets, look for Caris LeVert, who missed that first Heat game, to play more than the 22 minutes he racked up vs. OKC. He had reached his minutes restriction at the end of regulation and had to watch, dejected, from the bench as the Nets couldn’t mount an effective offense in OT.

Kenny Atkinson admits he will be face some challenges as first LeVert and then Kyrie Irving get healthy. How will he balance the minutes of those two and Spencer Dinwiddie who despite some off-games is still averaging 22.4 points and 6.2 assists?

“I think it almost has to be one of those things where, when the situation is presented to us, we have to make the decision what it is. But we are preparing for that. It’s just a ton of variables.”

Overall, the Heat have been a mediocre road team with 10 wins and nine losses, compared to their record at American Airlines Arena compared to a staggering 17-1 at home.

It’s tempting to call the Heat a two-man team considering that Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo dominate the stats in scoring (Butler), rebounds (Adebayo), assists (Butler), steals (Butler) and blocks (Adebayo). But the Heat have an uncanny record of finding diamonds in the rough to fill in gaps under Spoelstra. This year, it’s 6’2” rookie Kendrick Nunn who went undrafted because of off-court concerns but is a legitimate contender for rookie-of-the year, averaging 15.4 points a game and shooting 44/34/79. Never underestimate Pat Riley.

Player to watch: Jimmy Butler

I feel like Jimmy Butler is one of those you’d love to have as a teammate, but probably hate being around if you played against him. Don’t believe me, ask TJ Warren

The annoying thing about being injured is that in addition to missing time due to injury, when you come back, it takes time to shake off the rust and get back to where you were before you got hurt in the first place. This is where Caris Levert currently finds himself after a minutes restriction kept him out of overtime on Wednesday night.

From the Vault

Next month, the Heat will be holding a three day festival for Dwyane Wade’s jersey retirement. If I had my way, I think I’d spend about a day replaying this highlight over and over.

More reading: Hot Hot Hoops