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Nets host Heat as Kevin Durant returns to action

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Miami Heat v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The close ones sting the most. The Brooklyn Nets had a chance to come away with a much needed victory on Tuesday night, but they fell short and took a rough loss to the Toronto Raptors. The Nets and Raps are battling it out for seventh in the East and the season series ends in a 2-2 tie.

The opponent tonight will be the Miami Heat. Erik Spoelstra and the Heat have been one of the best teams in the NBA this season and figure to be a tough opponent come playoff time. They were on the road last night, and played the Milwaukee Bucks down to the wire. The Heat were up by a decent amount in the fourth quarter, but struggled late and lost by one point.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN on radio. Tip after 7:30 p.m.

Injuries

Joe Harris and Ben Simmons are out. Kyrie Irving is back on Sunday afternoon. Andre Drummond sat on Tuesday as a precaution for his knee situation. He’s listed as probable. Steve Nash is in health and safety protocols.

Victor Oladipo is on G-League assignment and is on the comeback trail, but won’t be here tonight. Marcus Morris is still out and not with the team right now. Kyle Lowry is out for personal reasons. Hope he’s doing alright.

The game

Miami took game one in October and game two in February. They close out the season series on March 26 in Miami.

Tonight wraps up a three game in four night stretch for the Nets. They’ll be off for a few days before going on a three game road trip that will take them to Boston, Charlotte, and Philadelphia. All three are playoff contenders and this represents a great chance for Brooklyn to make some noise.

With the Heat at the top of the East and the Nets still less than 100 percent, the odds are in Miami’s favor tonight.

Andre Drummond will have a fun challenge on his hands tonight. Bam Adebayo is in the upper tier of big men in the league and his ability to create offense, switch onto and guard positions one through five, and be a Swiss Army knife makes him incredibly vital to the Heat’s plans. Adebayo can work to get his shot, but he’s best served as an initiator as compared to the lead scoring option.

In the Raptors game preview on Tuesday, we wondered about Nic Claxton and his reduced role. He got back into non-garbage time action, and was outstanding. For a player that impacts the defense like Claxton does, the Nets coaching staff has to work to keep him in the rotation and in the best position to succeed. It’s organizational malpractice if they don’t.

Even with all of the absences, the Heat have persevered thanks in large part to the excellence of Coach Spo. Dan Devine of The Ringer has more:

Miami weathered the absences of its All-Stars by once again mining gold from a player development program that routinely produces dependable rotation players. Year after year, the Heat transform undrafted free agents and fringe two-way prospects into hand-in-glove fits for a roster where Spoelstra demands you defend like your hair’s on fire, on and off the ball, and make the right play to fit into its movement-heavy offense.

The Heat have been one of the best NBA franchises over the past 20 years and things like that are a reason why.

Miami does a wonderful job of forcing turnovers, so Brooklyn will have to be incredibly sharp when they have possession. The Heat are third in opponent’s turnover rate. On the flip side, they’ve also turned it over the fourth most in the NBA this year. The Heat make a lot of bank in transition so Brooklyn will be able to speed things up and play at the fast pace they like.

The Raptors made a killing from 3-point range in the two game series vs. Brooklyn, and if their defense is lax tonight, the Heat will make them pay for it again. Led by the dynamic duo of Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro, Miami leads the NBA in three point shooting at 37.6 percent. Herro and Robinson fly all over the court so the Nets will have to ensure their communication is top notch so they can reduce the amount of open looks Miami gets.

Seth Curry looking for his shot is a pretty sight. Curry scored 18 points and handed out six assists on Tuesday night and looked good as the lead guard. With Goran Dragic getting more comfortable and acclimated with the team and Cam Thomas’ continued ascent, Curry will have some excellent backcourt partners to work part. Of course, the team’s best backcourt option will be back on Sunday so Brooklyn will have even more to look forward to.

Player to watch: Jimmy Butler

Everyone has bad nights, but how you bounce back is what separates the good from the elite. Butler had a dreadful game last night against the Bucks as he only scored six points on 2-of-14 from the field in 35 minutes. Butler has earned the reputation of being one of the best crunch time players in basketball, but he went scoreless over the last three quarters against the Bucks defense. Butler is a very determined player so we know he’ll be out there looking to get back on the right side of things tonight.

Tonight’s the night. Kevin Durant has been out since mid January after suffering an MCL sprain against the New Orleans Pelicans. While KD was out, the Nets went from second in the Eastern Conference to eighth. James Harden quit on the team and forced his way onto the Philadelphia 76ers. However, now that the franchise is back, everyone is hoping he can pick up where he left off and steady the Brooklyn ship.

Before he went down, Durant was one of the contenders to win MVP. On the season, KD is averaging 29 points, seven rebounds, and almost six assists a night on a .520/.372/.894 shooting split. No clue on how many minutes he plays tonight, so we’ll assume they play it a bit conservatively as it relates to the minutes total. KD solves practically every issue Brooklyn has had over the last month. Need a go-to scoring option that can score from everywhere? Check. Need another ace defender? Check. Need someone that is willing to accept the responsibility of being the franchise player without throwing fits until they force their way out? Check. Kevin Durant is everything you want in a superstar and we’re lucky we get to watch him in Brooklyn.

And guarding KD tonight will be his old friend, PJ Tucker. Tucker has had many epic battles with Durant over the years and will be more than ready for the challenge tonight. He spoke about the challenge of guarding Durant over the summer with JJ Redick, and it’s kickass:

Shouts to the real.

From the Vault

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