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New-look Nets travel to Miami to face Heat

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

Everything is different, but one thing is still the same. On a day in which the Brooklyn Nets changed the course of their franchise going forward, they faced a Washington Wizards team that made its own set of choices. The Nets wound up losing by one point on Thursday, which extended their losing streak to ten straight games. With four games to go before the All Star break, they desperately need a win to get some (more) good vibes back in the building.

The opponent tonight is one of the best teams in the NBA. Erik Spoelstra (Top 15 coach of all time!) has put together another banner year and the Miami Heat find themselves near the top of the Eastern Conference standings. They were on the road wrapping up their six game trip on Thursday evening and finished 4-2 after beating the new look New Orleans Pelicans. The Heat are off for a few days after this before hosting the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday evening.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN on radio. Tip after 8 p.m.

Injuries

Kevin Durant is back with the team, but he’s out. Joe Harris is out. LaMarcus Aldridge is out. Nic Claxton is still dealing with hamstring tightness and he’s listed as out. We’ll get to the new guys in a moment.

Victor Oladipo is working his way back from right knee surgery, but is out. Marcus Morris wants to play, but the Heat haven’t cleared him from his neck injury and is still out. Caleb Martin is questionable with left Achilles soreness. Tyler Herro is questionable with right knee soreness. PJ Tucker is questionable with a left knee contusion.

The game

Miami won the first game in October.

Say hello to the new guys. Right before the trading deadline, the Nets said goodbye to James Harden (and Paul Millsap) as they fulfilled The Beard’s wish to get out of town and traded him to the Philadelphia 76ers for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, and Andre Drummond. Simmons won’t be on the court for a little while, but Curry and Drummond ought to be playing tonight. Curry is averaging 15 points and four assists on a .485/.400/.877 shooting split. He won’t have the offensive burden here that he did in Philadelphia and being next to some more elite shot creators will open things up for him.

Behold, a master class from Bron, KD, Jet, Shaq, Chuck, and EJ

Sensational!

Having Curry ought to alleviate some of the pressure on Patty Mills. He’s shot under 40 percent from the field in three straight games and five out of the last seven overall. Patty has had to carry a lot this year, and having another ace shooter on the club will give the offense some more juice.

If nothing changes as it relates to New York City COVID mandates, this will be the last time we see Kyrie Irving until February 26 in Milwaukee against the Bucks. He got fussed at on Twitter again to get COVID vaccinated, and it went about as well as you’d expect. Good luck, Nets management.

On the court, Irving found his shot on Thursday night in Washington, DC. He scored a game high 31 points and shot above 40 percent from the field for the first time in a few games. A great sign for him was that he got to the free throw line a season high 11 times as well. Irving needs to be in attack mode as much as humanly possible tonight so he can help the Nets snap this losing streak. With this being his last game for a while, he can afford to go all out and maybe play a bit longer than usual.

Irving and the Nets will have to contend with Kyle Lowry. Lowry has settled in nicely to his new home and has continued the level of excellence we saw for years with the Toronto Raptors. He’s usually more careful with the ball, but he’s turned it over a career high 20.7 percent of the time he’s had possession this season. It hasn’t hurt the team much, but it’s an area he can work on as they enter into the second half of the season.

Betnijah Laney of the New York Liberty is here with an important message

Shouts to the Queen Bee!

One consistent point that’s been brought up now that Harden is outta here is that Brooklyn will be able to push the tempo more. Harden’s game was more methodical in its approach whereas the other Nets may want to get out in transition a bit more so they can get easy baskets. We’ll see if they can speed Miami up some tonight. The Heat play at the third slowest pace in the NBA and are surprisingly the third most turnover prone club as well. Miami doesn’t allow as many points off of turnovers (20th in the NBA) as you’d think considering their turnover woes, so the Nets will have to make sure they maximize any and every opportunity in transition they get.

Jimmy Butler has been his usual excellent self this season. The Team KD All Star is giving Miami a solid 22 points, six rebounds, and six assists a night while shooting career highs from the field (49.4 percent) and free throw line (89.4 percent). He can’t make threes these days (career low 20.9 percent), but he does everything else you’d want in a franchise player. Butler is an incredibly tough player and one of the very best finishers at the rim in the league. He’s someone you can always count on to make a big play when you need it, and Kessler Edwards will get a tough challenge in matchup with the All Star and former Gold Medalist.

The Cam Thomas show is improving by the night. The young gun has cracked 20 points and over 40 percent from the field in each of the past four games and he is gaining more and more confidence by the possession. If there’s any bright spot to the past month of Nets drama and losing, it’s that we are starting to see Thomas establish himself as a permanent part of this rotation and someone that can be counted on for some scoring.

Player to watch: Bam Adebayo

If you’re looking for a big that can do just about everything, Bam’s your main man. Need a big that can stretch the floor and hit 16 to 18 foot jumpers? He’s got you. Need your big to switch onto a guard and lock them down? He’s got you. Need someone else to initiate the offense besides Lowry and Butler? He can do it, too. At only 24 years old, Adebayo is the perfect cornerstone for the Heat as they continued their run of excellence.

We’ll see how the Nets big man room looks tonight. Drummond figures to start, and he would help immensely. Miami is the third best rebounding team in the NBA this season and walloped Brooklyn on the boards in the first game. The Nets need to control the boards and push the pace in transition as much as possible, and that starts with completing possessions and securing rebounds. It feels like Drummond has been in the NBA forever, but he’s still only 28 years old and can give you good game in about 20 minutes a night. His former Pistons teammate, Blake Griffin, will be playing major minutes as well. BG has found his groove and has given the Nets some great effort and energy recently. He hasn’t made a three pointer in the past two games, but ought to have a little more space to work with as defenders will have to pay attention to another A+ shooter in Curry out there. Griffin does a good job of initiating offense out of the high post, so we’ll see how he and Curry start to build their chemistry.

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