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Nets wrap up road trip in Miami vs. the Heat

Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

Grimy games make for a fascinating watch. When points are hard to come by and the game turns in to a rock fight, it tests your will and connectivity as a team. And when you’re in a hostile environment with fans locked in to the game, it makes for an even more challenging task. Luckily, the Brooklyn Nets are built for it. The Nets had a national TV showdown with the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night and played a tough, physical game. It took a total team effort to get it done, and the Nets got some revenge with a gritty win. How best to describe that game? Let’s turn to the book of Kevin Garnett, Chapter 5...

That’s the type of basketball I like!

The Miami Heat have been in many a bar fight in their day. It’s been a pretty rough season for Erik Spoelstra and friends, but they’re trying to climb the Eastern Conference standings. They helped the cause by handing the slumping Phoenix Suns their fifth straight loss on Friday night.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN on radio. Tip after 6 PM.


All clear (gasp!) for the Nets. The four players constantly transiting between Brooklyn and Long Island remain with the G League affiliate (where they’re doing well). Day’Ron Sharpe, David Duke Jr., Kessler Edwards and Alondes Williams will play the Westchester Knicks in Bridgeport, Conn. at 1:00 p.m. ET. The game will be telecast on, MSG, and the NBA App.

Duncan Robinson is recovering from right finger surgery and is out. Tyler Herro is questionable with back spasms. Omar Yurtseven is out as he recovers from left ankle surgery. Nikola Jovic is out due to a stress reaction in his lower back. Udonis Haslem is questionable with right Achilles tendinosis. Caleb Martin is doubtful with a left quadriceps strain. Gabe Vincent is probable with a left knee effusion. Dwayne Dedmon is probable with left foot plantar fascitis.

The game

A recent loss to the shorthanded Los Angeles Lakers laid bare all of Miami’s issues this season. Over at Hot Hot Hoops, Naveen Ganglani wrote about the team’s overall feel this season and said:

This current batch of Heatles has been lackluster, unpredictable, and uninspiring. Although their recent play has been better, with nearly half the regular season done, their 20-19 record is a microcosm for who they are: a competitive team that can beat anybody but can lose to any opponent as well.

The belief they would be better than the record showed was benefit of the doubt given recent history, but that has now run its course.

The Nets see the Heat again on February 15. We'll see how things are by then.

Bam Adebayo has had to carry the Heat for much of the season, and he’s done well to keep things afloat. Since 2018, his usage rate and field goal attempts have steadily gone up and he’s averaging a career high 15.8 field goal attempts a game. Adebayo is the hub of the Miami offense and someone who helps get everyone to where they need to be. He’ll represent a different challenge than what the Nets have faced in this road trip as he does more on offense than Nikola Vucevic and Jonas Valanciunas.

Nic Claxton is currently ninth in the East frontcourt for All Star votes, and with the way he’s going, he might wind up making the big game. Claxton had another excellent all-around game as his nine points, nine rebounds, five blocks, and four assists shined through for the Nets.

Even when you’re struggling, you’ve got to stick with it. Trust what you’re doing, stay solid in your process, and hope the results show up. Kyrie Irving had a rough shooting night (7-22, 3-10 from three point range) and had some lapses on defense. However, he saved his best for last as he scored the last seven points of the game for the Nets and delivered in the clutch. Even if it’s ugly to start, your best players tend to find a way and deliver when you need it most.

Theoretically, you’d think the Heat would be one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the NBA. Miami is eighth in threes attempted per game and have two players, Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro, with reputations of being elite sharpshooters from deep. However, that hasn’t translated to the court this year. Miami is 26th in three point efficiency, only making 33.4 percent of their attempts this year (Brooklyn is second in efficiency at 39.3 percent).

Play with force. That goes a long way and is what fans ask for. After a fairly passive game against the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, Ben Simmons was better on Friday night. Ben10 had ten assists to one turnover and six rebounds on Friday night. One of those assists was this laser into the corner for a catch and shoot Seth Curry three pointer:

We say it for all players, and it’s doubly true for Simmons: He needs to be deliberate, aggressive, and always looking to make something happen. Miami plays at the third slowest pace in the NBA this year, so this would be the perfect opportunity for Simmons and the Nets to press the issue and attack downhill as much as humanly possible. The Nets have a heavyweight waiting for them when they get back home on Thursday night, and Simmons is going to have to be up to the challenge.

Player to watch: Jimmy Butler

My guy Matt Brooks caught this on Friday night


On the court, Jimmy Butler is looking to will the Heat back in to contention. He’s shooting a career best 52.1% from the field and his ability to drive to the basket, finish over tough defense, and get to the free throw line will always keep the Heat in games. Interestingly, he’s shooting 33.3% from 3-point range this year. That’s not particularly great, but Butler hasn’t shot above 25 percent from deep since he joined the Heat way back in 2019. If teams have to respect Butler even a little bit on the perimeter, it makes him even more difficult to deal with.

As it happens, Friday night was the worst shooting performance of the season for Kevin Durant. KD only went 9-of-27 from the field, but that doesn’t tell the story of his night. He added ten rebounds, three assists, and two blocks in his 38 minutes on the court. You can always count on your superstar to bring it even when his shot isn’t there. For Durant, he’s been just as spectacular on the defensive side of the ball this season. At The Analyst, Jackson Frank wrote about KD’s defense and said:

A subtle, yet important, aspect of effective defense is high hands to deter shots. Closeouts that lack a high hand and invite open 3s are lost chances. On-ball defense where the hands are waist- or chest-high, leading to a rhythm bucket, are maddening. Durant has little issue here.

That 7-foot-5 wingspan is constantly on display when he’s battling against ball handlers. The majority of dudes at his size, with his length, do not sport the mobility to exist on the perimeter like him. Deterring any angle toward a routine shot, he’s a genuine irritant out there. Dudes are flustered when he enters their orbit.

The downside of such animated hands is being exploited into fouls. Averaging just 2.4 fouls per 36 minutes, Durant avoids those perils. His body control and discipline are scrupulous. As a generational bucket-getter himself, he recognizes the opportunity scorers see in moments like these. But he doesn’t succumb.

His insider knowledge, borne through years of historic scoring production, aids him.

True indeed. Durant will spend some time guarding his 2016 Team USA teammate tonight, and if he’s able to slow Butler down, it’ll stymie Miami’s offensive attack. Durant has done everything you can ask for and more, and another primetime showing is on deck tonight.

From the Vault

This Spring, the Basketball Hall of Fame will be announcing the Class of 2023. It features some high profile nominees such as Dirk Nowitzki, Becky Hammon, Gregg Popovich, Pau Gasol, etc. Here in Miami, they know a guy who’s a sure bet to be inducted into Springfield...

More reading: Hot Hot Hoops