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Nets head south to face (barely) first-place Heat

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Oklahoma City Thunder v Miami Heat Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Fun game, but not so fun result. On Wednesday night, the Brooklyn Nets took on the Memphis Grizzlies in Memphis on a day where they got the star treatment from ESPN. The Grizz gave the fans in the building plenty to cheer for as they handed the Nets a 12 point loss.

The opponent tonight is at the top of the Eastern Conference. Erik Spoelstra and the Miami Heat have had a wonderful season and are hoping to finish strong. It's been a messy week and they were in a dogfight with the New York Knicks on Friday night. Miami was up by as much as 17 points, but they collapsed in the fourth quarter and suffered an improbable loss at home last night. The L was Miami’s third in a row and as Nets Republic’s Justin Thomas pointed out, each loss came against a team missing their star player.

Where to follow the game

YES Network for the locals, NBATV for the out of towners. WFAN on radio. Tip after 8 p.m.

Injuries

No LaMarcus Aldridge, Joe Harris, or Ben Simmons. Seth Curry and Goran Dragic both sat out Wednesday night’s game. They’re both expected back tonight. And from this game forward, Kyrie Irving can play home or away.

Victor Oladipo sat out last night’s game against the Knicks as he doesn’t do both ends of back-to-back following his return from a knee injury. He’s expected back tonight. Tyler Herro missed the last game due to a left knee sprain. No word on his availability tonight. Gabe Vincent is out with a right big toe contusion. PJ Tucker has been dealing with left knee irritation, but suited up last night. He’s expected to play. Same for Jimmy Butler and his right ankle sprain, Duncan Robinson with his right Achilles irritation, and Caleb Martin’s hyperextended left knee.

The game

Miami won the first game in October, second in February, and the third one in early March.

The odds slightly favor Miami in this one as they aim for the season sweep, but with the Nets getting in gear at the right time, this will make for an intense, high-stakes matchup. It might even be a potential playoff preview if certain things break right.

Whenever you’re around someone for long enough, you’re bound to get into a heated argument or two. It’s a part of life and once it’s over, you get back to business. For the Miami Heat, their heated argument got caught on camera.

Oh my.

This is the third game in four nights for the Heat, although they've all been at home. For Heat fans, they hope the lack of travel will help keep their guys fresh as they head down the finish line. Friday night. things didn’t work out as the Knicks beat them, 111-103. The Heat have now lost three straight and five of the last eight. They are hanging on to first place in the increasingly tight East by a half game.

Jimmy Butler is a great player, but there’s one big hole in his game. His three point percentage has dipped in five consecutive season and is shooting only 20 percent from deep, the worst in his career. There’s a clear line of demarcation, and the good folks at HEATmuse pointed it out for us:

That is not a recipe for success.

Having Curry and Dragic back will help the Nets immensely. They were short on ballhandlers against the Grizzlies and having the three point shooting both of them provide the Nets with more options, more space, and more juice. Their return will help against an elite Miami defense. The Heat have had the fourth best defense in the league by defensive rating this season and since the All Star break, have been the third best team defending the three point line.

The Nets lost the turnover battle against the Grizzlies, and the Heat will look to keep the pressure up. Miami is third in opponent’s turnover rate this season and will cash in if the Nets aren’t careful, they may find themselves down big early. The Heat are in desperation mode and some early transition opportunities could rejuvenate them and the crowd. Brooklyn has to be on guard at all times.

Nic Claxton and Andre Drummond will look to tussle with Bam Adebayo on the interior. Adebayo is a Swiss Army knife and does a lot of things well for the team. He can handle, create offense from the high post, can switch out onto guards, and does a good job of protecting the rim. For Drum and Clax, they’ll look to play extra physical with him tonight as they work to control the boards and pace of this game. Miami has been the fifth worst rebounding team in the NBA after the All Star break, and if the Nets can win that battle, it’ll help them immensely.

Kevin Durant will be dealing with his old friend, PJ Tucker, tonight. Tucker is one of the few defenders that can bother KD enough and get him off his game enough to make a difference. The last few times Durant has shot under 50 percent from the field has been a loss for Brooklyn, so if he’s locked in like he typically is, Brooklyn has a great chance of capturing the W.

Player to watch: Kyle Lowry

When it’s playoff time, you need a capable floor general that can make things happen. Lowry is that guy for the Heat, even though there’s some room for improvement within the flow of the team’s attack. He’s turned the ball over 20 percent of the time he’s had, the most in his career. Possessions become even more valuable the higher the stakes become, and as Miami battles it out in the playoffs, they will need Lowry to keep things running as smoothly as possible. Lowry turned 36 Friday.

Speaking of birthdays. Way to celebrate your birthday in style. Kyrie Irving rang in his 30th birthday on Wednesday night with 43 points and eight assists on a .556/.545/1.000 shooting split in 43 minutes. Irving was the only Net making it shake from deep, and his ability to get to the rim and finish will be critical tonight. When Irving last saw the Heat, he put on a fourth quarter show for the ages as he scored 20 points and almost brought the Nets all the way back from a huge deficit. With the Nets having some more weapons alongside him this time, the task of stopping him will become a lot more difficult for Miami.

From the Vault

On Friday afternoon, Triple H announced his retirement from wrestling after recovering from viral pneumonia and heart failure that he experienced last September. You can’t tell the story of professional wrestling in North America without The Game, and

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