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Brooklyn Nets vs. Miami Heat preview: MLK Day at Barclays

The Brooklyn Nets are back home from Paris, but they can’t get comfortable. The Miami Heat are awaiting them.

Charlotte Hornets v Miami Heat Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

Back home, and in need of some help. The Brooklyn Nets got the spotlight of being in the NBA Global Games in Paris against the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, the Nets didn’t bring the requisite energy needed to beat a playoff contender and suffered another tough loss.

The opponent tonight has had a busy few days. The Miami Heat hosted the Charlotte Hornets last night and were in complete control as they cruised to victory. The game was also special since the team honored Heat legend and Pro Basketball Hall of Famer, Dwyane Wade, and held a special celebration for him. We’ll take an early trip to the Vault and celebrate one of Wade’s greatest games

That’s what’s up!

Where to follow the game

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

Injuries

No Ben Simmons or Day’Ron Sharpe. Expect both back in two weeks.

Dru Smith is out. Jimmy Butler has been out for a while due to a right MP joint sprain, and it’s doubtful he plays today. Kevin Love missed last night’s game due to a left knee contusion. We’ll see if he’s back tonight. Jaime Jaquez Jr had to leave last night’s game due to a groin injury. No word on if he’ll play tonight.

The game

Brooklyn won games one and three while Miami captured game two. This is the last regular season meeting between the two clubs.

When you do good work and do right by people, the rewards will come. Erik Spoelstra has worked really hard to make it to his position, and he was rewarded with the richest coaching contract in NBA history. Spoelstra is the definition of “Heat Lifer” and his ascent is one that opens doors for many aspiring coaches coming behind him.

There’s always a lot of discussion about travel in the NBA, but this year there’s been a bit more than usual. The Nets are back from Paris, but after today’s game immediately fly west for a three-game road trip. The Heat are on the second leg of a back-to-back. And to make things more complicated for Spo and friends, this is their third game in four nights. The road doesn’t get any easier.

The Nets offense was stuck in the mud again on Thursday, except for Cam Thomas. Our own Collin Helwig wrote about that in his takeaways and said:

His passing and defense remain a work in progress, but with what Brooklyn’s working with right now, keeping him off the floor is jumping in a pool with dumbbells tied to your feet when you already don’t know how to swim.

Nobody else on this team is capable of creating their own shot, at least not right now with Bridges going through a lengthy cold stretch. With Dinwiddie also unable to get downhill and put pressure on the rim to either open things up for shooters or Claxton in the dunker spot, Thomas is the only thing keeping this team from scoring 80-90 points right now.

True indeed. For the Nets, how they try to unlock their offense will be the question of the evening. They couldn’t take advantage of switches and drove into nowhere for much of the night on Thursday

Hard to make something happen like that.

The coaching staff has to figure out ways to get easier buckets for the team. In theory, this is a game where they try to force the issue and take advantage of a team that flew into town this morning. Spencer Dinwiddie hasn’t gotten as many minutes as he’s used to in the past few games, and the Nets are going to need him to press the issue in a major way tonight. The Nets don’t have many downhill threats, but he’s one of them. They need him attacking and breaking the defense down early so it can create open corner threes for players like Cam Johnson. The Nets need more from everybody on the roster, and that starts with the starting point guard.

Usually, veterans get the second leg of the back-to-back off. But with Miami being so shorthanded and Spoelstra saying the team isn’t in position to mess around, I’d be surprised if Kyle Lowry sat this one out. Lowry isn’t as good as he used to be, but can give you some good minutes every now and then.

The matchup at the two guard should be fun. Tyler Herro has been hampered by various maladies this year, but when he’s on, he can heat up and take over a game. Same for one of the game’s best three point shooters, Duncan Robinson. The Nets have been terrible defending three pointers, and if they’re not careful, Miami will punish them early and often. For the Nets guard duo of Mikal Bridges and Cam Thomas, they have to ensure they can match them shot for shot.

Player to watch: Bam Adebayo

We get to watch one of the best bigs in the game tonight. Bam Adebayo has had to do more on offense, and he’s paid it off for the Heat in big ways. His scoring average has increased every season he’s been in the league, and is averaging a career high 22.1 points per game on 51.2 percent shooting from the field and 78.2 percent from the free throw line. When the game is close late, they can put the ball in his hands and trust him to deliver:

That trust and confidence will come in handy the deeper we get into the season. Adebayo has taken the mantle of leadership in Miami and is the player who will ensure Miami is a contender for many years to come.

In the meantime, Nic Claxton will do battle with the former All Star. Clax will have to do more now that Day’Ron Sharpe is out for a while, but it’s something he’s ready for. Brooklyn will need him to play heavy minutes, protect the rim, handle guards on the perimeter, and create some good plays on offense as well. It’s a huge responsibility, but one he’s ready for. Now that everyone in the NBA is officially eligible to be traded, more eyes will turn to Claxton and his upcoming free agency. We’ve got a long way to go before the deadline, but the chatter won’t be stopping any time soon.

From the Vault

Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Dr, King is one of the most important people in American history, and his words and work still reverberates today. Let’s take a trip back to 1967 and watch an interview Dr. King did with NBC News.

More reading: Hot Hot Hoops, SB Nation NBA, Nets Republic, All U Can Heat, Heat Nation