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Statement: Nets extinguish Heat in Miami, 110-95

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Brooklyn Nets v Miami Heat Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

It was Brooklyn’s way in Miami that ended in a statement win for what could be an Eastern Conference first-round playoff series come April.

The Brooklyn Nets cranked up the heat in Miami (pun intended), defeating the Miami Heat, 110-95, Saturday night. With the road win, the Nets improve to 39-35 on the season and tie a single-season franchise record with their 23rd road victory. The Nets remain in eighth place, but only two games out of seventh and three games out of sixth. If they can get to the sixth, not only are they automatically in the post-season, they’ll get six days off. Right now, the Cavaliers are in seventh, having passed the Raptors on Saturday night.

“I thought we were more physical. We were more locked in to start the game. You can see the energy and commitment. The connectivity was there and we held them to 25 and under for the first three quarters, which was really solid,” said Steve Nash after the 110-95 win.

Kevin Durant, who didn’t play in the fourth quarter due to the heavy lead, registered a quiet team-high 23 points (7-of-14 shooting from the field and 0-of-2 shooting from 3-point range) three rebounds, five assists, three steals, one block, and a team-high five turnovers in 31 minutes. Kyrie Irving, who also didn’t play a single minute in the fourth, finished with 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting overall and 1-of-5 shooting from behind the arc, to go with four boards, six assists, two steals, and only one turnover in 30 minutes.

It was the Nets’ bigs that set the tone early for Brooklyn and brought the physicality needed to break away. Andre Drummond finished with his sixth double-double as a Net (13 points and 11 rebounds) to pair with an assist and two steals. Nic Claxton led the bench with 10 points, six boards, one assist, one steal, and two blocks in 18 minutes. Seth Curry had a solid outing, tallying 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field and 5-of-6 shooting from 3-Point range in 22 minutes.

“They played well. Blake did an amazing job. Nic, he really has that high-energy motor. He’s flying up and down and he’s a versatile big who can switch on guards. Drum [Drummond], he was all over the place tonight. He was dunking the ball, getting rebounds, fast breaks dunks,” said Goran Dragic on the play of Brooklyn’s bigs. “It’s nice to see that, especially how Miami’s playing defensively. They switching a lot. They pack the paint. To see our big guys do damage on the offensive rebounds and offense, it’s nice.”

There were plenty of defensive milestones Brooklyn set Saturday night against the Eastern Conference’s best team known for their defense. The Nets scored a total of 40 points off the Heat’s 24 turnovers, which is a season-high for any team in a single game this season.

“I think our defense led into our offense. We did a good job of being physical early on. That’s a physical basketball team so we matched their physicality. I think all phases of our game worked tonight,” Durant said. “Defensively and offensively, just doing all the little things. We got to build on it for tomorrow.”

Brooklyn also tallied 15 total blocks and outrebounded Miami on the offensive glass (11-6). To pair with the 15 blocks, the Nets also swiped 15 steals (season-high) in the win, which led to a 24-5 fast break point margin. Brooklyn also outscored Miami in the paint (46-34).

For me, it’s great when we can turn defense to offense. We can be punishing in transition but it’s really about getting stops. That’s the No. 1 thing,” Nash said. “We don’t have to force a lot of turnovers. It’s more about that commitment, that physicality, and finishing possessions with rebounds. If we happen to get steals on the night and run out and score, that’s a bonus but we’re really looking for that commitment, that physicality, and that purpose defensively. When we do that, we’re a different team.”

The Nets opened the contest starting Irving, Curry, Durant, Bruce Brown, and Drummond against the Heat. Brooklyn got outhustled from the opening tip, hitting only hit three of their first eight shots. Miami got off to a 5-for-8 start in the opening minutes to take an early 15-7 lead at the 7:57 mark of the first. In that span, the Nets coughed up nine unanswered points.

“We assumed they were going to come out here with a lot of firepower. They did. We got down 15-7 early, but we weathered the storm,” said Durant on the Nets’ first quarter start. “We took their punch and was able to keep going.”

The contest began to heat up in the closing minutes of the opening period. After back-to-back dunks for both teams, the physicality rose but the careless turnovers on Brooklyn’s end continued to pile up. Brooklyn overcame the eight-point hole, concluded the first on a 6-0 burst and a Claxton swat at the buzzer to take a 27-25 lead after one.

Unlike the start of the game, the Nets started the second quarter the way they ended the first: utilizing the size advantage down low and turning defense into offense. More importantly, the team didn’t need Durant, who took an extended breather on the bench, to get it done. The lead ballooned to nine points (45-36) at the 6:37 mark after big boosts from Drummond under the rim and on the offensive glass, and Irving’s wizardry getting to the basket.

Brooklyn gained some separation by turning defense into offense, forcing Miami into tough shots and tough spots on the hardwood for steal opportunities. It ended up being one of the best defensive quarters for the Nets in quite some time. That led to the Nets concluding the first half on a commanding 20-6 run in a quarter in which Brooklyn outscored Miami, 40-21 (their biggest positive point differential in a second quarter this season), to take a 67-48 lead into the locker room.

At the break, Brooklyn held a 22-17 rebounding advantage, 12-2 fastbreak-point advantage, and a controlling 36-20 advantage. Their largest lead was 21 points through the first two quarters of play, which also marked their third-highest halftime lead of the season.

Brooklyn Nets v Miami Heat Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

It continued to go Brooklyn’s way in the third. The Nets didn’t let their foot off defensively, closing the gaps and forcing Miami into tough looks late into the shot clock. While the defense was the end focus for the Nets, their offense flowed, shooting 42.1 percent from the field and 50.0 percent from 3-Point range in the third.

Although it was a sloppy ending to the third for the Nets — that included a flagrant 1 foul for Durant after a foul on Dewayne Dedmon and a flagrant 1 foul on Caleb Martin for slamming Dragic — Brooklyn held a commanding 96-68 lead at the end of the third. The 28-point advantage is the Nets’ second-biggest lead through three quarters this season.

It wasn’t all Brooklyn’s way in the fourth. Sitting Durant and Irving for the entirety of the quarter, the Nets went scoreless for six minutes while Miami didn’t fade away, trimming their deficit to 105-89 with 2:30 left in the game. Although the Nets were outscored 27-14 in the final period, it was a statement win in the books with the postseason looming.

“We’re not a team that’s going to get big-headed. Obviously, it was a great win for us tonight. We know we’re a long way from where we need to be,” Drummond said. “We have a lot of work to do, but tonight is a great sign of what we can be. We just have to build on it and build consistency.”

It was the Heat’s fourth straight loss and sixth in their last nine. With the loss, they move into second in the East, a half game behind the 76ers. Individually, the Heat were led by Ben Adebayo’s 14 points and six boards, about half of what he averaged over the first three games between Brooklyn and Miami: 24.3 points and 12.3 boards. His three veteran teammates — Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry and Tyler Herro — combined for a mere 29 points on 37.5 percent shooting (12-of-32.)

Heat honor Goran Dragic

Goran Dragic spent nearly seven years in Miami, being named to his only All-Star team while a member of the Heat. In that time — 392 games, he averaged 16.2 points and 5.2 assists while starting 282 games. So in his first trip back to Miami since he was traded to the Raptors last year, the Heat were ready with a tribute video...

Dragic who looked emotional as he watched the video, thanked the Heat fans post-game for their support but noted it’s all about the Nets now for him.

“I mean it means a lot. I spent six-and-a-half years here. It’s always nice to get the reception like I did here. I really appreciate the fans, what they did for me during those years. We had a blast.”

Grady’s news on Ben Simmons

Late in the game, Michael Grady dropped some news on Ben Simmons situation. Grady noted that it was a “positive sign” that Simmons was even on the trip, then added details of Simmons improvement in the last week, highlighted by the epidural he received about a week ago.

“A positive sign seeing him on this trip. It was shared with us on Ben ... its our understanding that he had pain in his lower back going down his legs. and that since has dissipated and the pain is now localized to his lower back, So no pain in his legs anymore. That’s a positive sign highlighted by the fact that he even made this trip. The Nets were keeping him off planes for a while.

“Again, Ben Simmons moving in the right direction. Pain localized in his lower back. Still not doing court work. There’s a progression: 1-on-1 drills, 3-on-3, 5-on-5. Not quite there yet. But the pain going down, a combination of rest, the epidural and physical therapy seems to be working.”

Simmons of course has yet to make his debut and may not in the regular season which has only eight games to go. However, Steve Nash has made it plain that he would be comfortable dropping Simmons into a playoff game even if he hadn’t played before the end of the regular season on April 10.

Drummond’s time in the spotlight

Andre Drummond has his sixth double-double as a Net Saturday with 13 points and 11 boards, but he had two highlights that stole the show. His first was a peace sign directed at the Heat bench as he went coast-to-coast for a dunk in the second half...

He said he didn’t know why he did it other than to emphasize his speed...

Then, post-game, he brought his young daughter onto the podium, but she didn’t like the bright lights, big city at all and was returned to mom.

Milestone Watch

Kevin Durant’s 23 points gives him 25,264 on his career, just 15 shy of Reggie Miller and Rick Barry who are tied at 25,279 on the All-Time NBA/ABA scoring list. When KD passes them, quite possibly Sunday, he will also move into the top 25 in scoring all-time.

Seth Curry’s 5-of-6 shooting from deep Saturday has pushed his all-time 3-point percentage up to 44,04 percent for his career. He’s now in No. 3 all-time passing Joe Harris, but also only .05 behind Hubert Davis for second. Steve Kerr is No. 1 with a comfortable lead over Davis at 45.4 percent.

Here’s the defensive numbers all in one place...

-15 steals (season-high)

-24 turnovers forced (season-high)

-40 points off turnovers (most in a game for the Nets since 11/22/02 vs. Cleveland - 47)

-The Nets win their 27th straight game when holding their opponent under 100 points (10-0 this season).

As Sponge Bob might say...

What’s next

Brooklyn Nets vs Milwaukee Bucks, 2021 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals Set Number: X163652 TK1

It’s Kyrie Irving’s long-awaited home season debut.

The Nets will return to action on Sunday, March 27 when the team hosts the Charlotte Hornets at Barclays Center. The game is slated to tip at 7:30 p.m. ET.

For a different perspective on Saturday’s game, check out Hot Hot Hoops — our sister site covering the Miami Heat.