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Homestand continues as Nets host Heat at ‘The ‘Clays’

Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Defense, yes, defense, came to the Nets rescue vs. the rejuvenated Wizards. The Nets changed up some schemes and Washington’s backcourt faded. Spencer Dinwiddie, hoping to make a big impression, finished with a measly 10 points and Bradley Beal an underwhelming 19. And so the Nets won easily, 104-90, going up by as much as 25 early and never relinquishing the lead in the second half.

Tonight’s opponent is the always interesting Miami Heat. With its stable combination of Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra, the Miamians are hoping for a re-run of their 2020 run to the NBA Finals. The Heat are 2-1 and showing signs that they could be a contender. They beat the Magic Monday night, 107-90, at home. Both teams are getting a day’s rest going into and headed out of the game at Barclays.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Tip after 7:30 p.m. No national TV.

And what’s this about “The ‘Clays,” the new nickname for Barclays Center? Kevin Durant started calling the Brooklyn arena “the ‘Clays” last week and then Joe Tsai did the same on Tuesday in a most unlikely venue, so to speak. Well, together they “own” the building! So at least for now, “The ‘Clays” it is.

Injuries

For the Nets, Kyrie Irving, (ineligible to play) remains out. With the Nets resting one veteran in each of the last two games — Blake Griffin on Sunday, LaMarcus Aldridge on Monday — that could happen again. Cam Thomas and Day’Ron Sharpe were assigned to Long Island Nets training camp Tuesday but expect them available on Wednesday.

Similarly, for the Heat, Marcus Garrett has been sent to Sioux Falls SkyForce, the Heat’s G-League team. He’s on two-way contract. Victor Oladipo, rehabbing his right knee, is only Heat player on injury report. He’ll be out for a while.

The game

The Nets upped their game, changed some schemes and played solid defense vs. Washington, with a lot of Steve Nash’s deep rotation getting minutes. As the Nets shuffled players in and out early — 11 players by the second period — the Wizards couldn’t seem to keep up with Nets varied looks, particularly on defense. At one point in the second, the Nets went up by 25, 47-22, and cruised the rest of the way.

Kevin Durant looked like Kevin Durant (when has he not?), scoring 25 points in 35 minutes, while James Harden showed signs of getting back to his old self. He didn’t shoot well, going 6-of-17 overall and 1-of-8 from deep, but he had nine assists (and only two turnovers) as six rebounds. As Steve Nash said, Harden has focused for the past six months on conditioning after his multiple bouts with hamstring issues. Now, he’s playing every other night. Big difference. Speaking of difference-makers. Patty Mills, looking like an early Sixth Man of the Year candidate, scored 21 points and hit 5-of-9 from deep. He now has made 64 percent of his three’s.

Perhaps more importantly, Bruce Brown and Nic Claxton supplied some youthful energy on defense. In 16 minutes, Claxton had eight rebounds and two blocks — one a highlight reel swat on Dinwiddie from behind — and just looked like he was in a better place.

“It was a great response from the Charlotte game, second half of Charlotte,” Nash said post-game. “We had a great start, which is a response in itself and something we’ve suffered from, poor starts. The guys responded.

“Just the attitude and effort. They came to play. The competitive spirit was there. The discipline was there,” Nash added. “Defensively our details were good and combative. We got into people and were physical with our defense, and made the extra efforts that I thought were missing (in the Opening Night loss to Charlotte).”

Miami enters its fourth game as a defensive juggernaut, allowing only 95.7 points per game and 39.3 percent shooting. The are second-best in the NBA in both categories. Moreover, The Heat have yet to allow an opponent to score more than 102 points and shoot higher than 40.7 percent. They also have held their first three opponents under 30 percent from 3-point range. Against Orlando, they upped their perimeter defense, holding the young Magic to 12-of-44 shooting from three. That’s 27.3 percent.

Offensively, they haven’t been consistent. Against the Magic, they shot 47.1 percent for the game, a nice jump over the 38.1 percent they shot against the Pacers Saturday night in their only loss. On the other hand, this is a team that scored 137 points against the Bucks on Thursday on their home court.

The Heat are getting consistency from their own “Big Three” — Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo. Butler is averaging 25.3, Herro 23.3 and Adebayo 17.7 and 14.0 boards. Kyle Lowry, their big off-season signing, is putting up big numbers yet but his averaging seven assists a game and providing, along with Butler, veteran leadership.

“Jimmy is an elite scorer,” Spoelstra said. “He’s also an elite playmaker and he’s an elite defender. He can do a lot of different things.”

Any Net fan with memories of monster games from Butler vs. Brooklyn would agree.

Player to watch: Tyler Herro

After his monster game vs. Milwaukee, Tyler Herro got a big boost from former Heat icon, Shaquille O’Neal. Pouring in 27 points off the bench on 10-of-18 shooting while grabbing six boards and handing out five assists, Herro did a number on the Bucks’ vaunted backcourt defense. So much so that Shaq compared Herro to Luka Doncic and Trae Young. Herro himself has said he believes he’s in that exalted company as well.

Two weeks ago, before the season began, here’s what he told Bally Sports Miami Mic’d Up podcast.

“I feel like I’m in the same conversation as those guys, the young guys coming up in the league who can be All-Stars, Superstars one day — Luka, Trae Ja [Morant], you know, those guys, I feel like my name should be in that category too,” Herro said.

Herro, younger than his counterparts at 21, discussed his goals in a very positive light.

“I put the work in and continue to get better every single day,” Herro said. “I got a lot of goals in mind, to be an All-Star one day, and continue to chase my dream so I’m really excited to see where I can go.”

He sure looked the role in 2020 when he was the darling of the “bubble,” his snarl showing his confidence as much as his game. Last year, he didn’t develop as quickly as some had hoped and missed 18 games. The Heat and their fans had hoped for more. Some even blamed Miami’s disappointing season on their young star.

Bottom line for the Heat: they know what they can get from Butler, Lowry and Adebayo but they want more consistency from Herro. After that Opening Night blast vs. Milwaukee and a 30 and 10 game in the loss to Indiana, Herro struggled against Orlando, scoring only 13 points. He did have nine assists and five rebounds in 30 minutes.

In fact, we could be seeing two candidates for the Sixth Man of the Year face off Wednesday. Herro vs. Mills.

From the Vault

In our humble opinion, this never ever gets old...

The dunk, coming early in the 2005-06 season, was so perfect in its execution, so perfectly delicious that Mourning did not talk to VC for SEVEN YEARS! Understandably.

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