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Nets face reeling Heat ... who’ll be missing Jimmy Butler again

Brooklyn Nets v Miami Heat Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Nets finally woke up against the Hornets midway through the third and came away with a nice win, 130-115, led by Kevin Durant who had 25 points and 11 assists in an (it only seems) effortless performance. He was complemented by the Nets increasingly effective sharpshooters. Joe Harris and Landry Shamet contributed six three’s each and finished with 26 and 20. Pretty, pretty good.

The Nets then flew their talents to South Beach for Sunday’s 3:30 p.m. matinee’ vs. the Heat, who’ve lost three straight and are now 28-28 and are currently the seventh seed. If that holds, the reigning conference champions will wind up in the play-in tournament.

Where to follow the game

An afternoon feast: the game will be broadcast on ESPN and YES Network (not YES2) on TV; WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Tip off after 3:30 p.m.

You can join us on NetsDaily Clubhouse post-game. Details below:


James Harden is out with a hamstring injury, Chris Chiozza is out due to a fractured hand, Tyler Johnson is out with knee soreness, and Spencer Dinwiddie is out with a partially torn ACL. And of course LaMarcus Aldridge has decided to retire. In other words, same as the Hornets game. One positive: Harden traveled to Miami with the team and is close to a return.

Victor Oladipo (knee) is out Nets. And Jimmy Butler (ankle) is a late scratch. Gabe Vincent (knee) is probable: .

The game

The Nets won both games in a two-game “series” at the end of January. In the first, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving combined 59 points in winning 128-124 and two nights later, In the second, James Harden blew up in the fourth and the Nets won, 98-85.

How disappointing are the Heat” Listen to Jimmy Butler who knows something about pushing the envelope ... his and his team’s.

“It’s not frustrating because we do it so often,” Butler said after Miami lost to the lowly T’Wolves Friday night. “It’s almost like it’s expected, in a bad way to put it. We just think we’re such a good team, and then reality hits us, we’re humbled. And I’m glad, because that’s what this game does for you. Home, away, no matter what opponent you’re playing against, you just stroll into the game thinking you’re nice, you’re good. This is what happens.

“I’m glad it happened to us,” Butler said of the loss. “And if we don’t fix it, I hope it continues to happen to us.”

Problem is that Butler was ruled out on Sunday afternoon.

Diego Quezada writing for Hot Hot Hoops summed up the disappointment this week after quoting Butler (noting JB had said basically the same thing in January.)

It’s already been an underwhelming season — blame it on the quick turnaround, condensed schedule, Butler’s early COVID absence, Tyler Herro’s lack of improvement, Goran Dragic’s decline or a combination of it all. But going from the Finals to a play-in tournament would be a waste of Butler and Adebayo’s All-NBA talent.

Herro, whose confident sneer was the face of the Heat in the “bubble.” has been a bit disappointing. Although his scoring is up a bit over last year’s regular season numbers, they’re down from the “bubble” — as is his 3-point shooting. Both the Heat fans — and no doubt front office — expected more. In case you forgot, the Heat stepped away from the James Harden trade picture because they wouldn’t part with Herro. (How’d that work out?)

So what’s Butler’s prescription for the Heat? BULLY BALL!

“I want Bam to attack the rim because nobody can stay in front of him,” Butler said. “Nobody can stay in front of him. Go. You’re going to get fouled or you’re going to dunk on somebody. That’s cool. I love him shooting midrange jump shots too, but he lets people off the hook. Play bully ball. I like bully ball.”

The key to the game may very well be the Heat defense. Miami is 4-20 when allowing 109 points or more, 24-8 when holding teams to 108 or fewer. The Nets are of course the most efficient offense in NBA history and over the last three are averaging 121.3 points a game. In their three-game losing streak, the Heat has given up 116 per.

One other thing about the Nets: The media has focused on their injuries, the “Big Three’s” lack of chemistry, LaMarcus Aldridge’s retirement and their franchise record 29 different starting lineups (and a franchise record 26 players). All that said...


They have the fourth best record in the NBA, are a game behind the 76ers in the East and 20 games over .500. Last time that happened was back in 2001-02. They’re 24-6 since they lost ignominiously to the Pistons on February 9. That’s an 80 percent clip. ‘Nuff said.

Player to watch: Jimmy Butler

As we’ve always said, you can always come up with reasons not to include Jimmy Butler in the list of NBA’s best players and not to pay him at that same level. He’s getting older. He’s only shooting 23.2 percent from deep. He can be mercurial, etc. etc. Then, you watch him play.

Butler is a force of nature. He dominates whenever he steps on the court. He leads, This season, he’s averaging 21, 7 and 7. Now, though, he will have missed all three Nets games. He missed both games back in January with COVID-19.

Too bad. He would have saddled up to three of his 2016 Team USA teammates: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan.

From the Vault

It was 2005 and the Nets were playing in Miami when Vince Carter launched what many consider the greatest in-game dunk ever over Alonzo Mourning (unless you count Olympic games but that was VC too.)

Carter did this to Alonzo Mourning. Look at it from every different angle. It’s worth it.

Carter said that Mourning didn’t speak to him for “six or seven years” after that dunk. Seems understandable.