The Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets will clash in South Beach tonight for what could be a preview of a second round series in the Eastern Conference playoffs this year. This will mark their final regular season meeting, and Brooklyn will be looking to do something that no other team has done this year and go undefeated against the Heat.
Both teams come into this game with plenty left to play for. While the Pacers have been on a slide as of late, the Heat still only hold a one game edge over them for first place in the Eastern Conference. They will be looking to lock that seed up in the final few games of the regular season.
The Nets are 2 and a half games back of the third place Toronto Raptors and fourth place Chicago Bulls, while it may unlikely for them to catch either of these teams, winning this game would go a long way in boosting their confidence. Not many teams head into the postseason being able to say that they swept the defending champs in the regular season. A 4-0 record against Miami combined with a 32-13 record since January 1st is a large bit of momentum to carry into the playoffs
So why does Brooklyn seem to match up so well against Miami, and would they be able to carry that success into a hard-fought seven game playoff series? While all of their games this season have been close, as every game has been decided by single digits. The main reason for the Nets success against the defending champs is that they have exposed the Heat’s biggest weakness time and time again.
The Nets have utilized a bigger lineup against the Heat, and slowed down the pace of the game. Miami, who is last in the league in rebounding, was outrebounded by Brooklyn in every one of their games. In two of those games, Brooklyn outrebounded them by a double-digit margin.
The Nets also contained the Heat’s fast break opportunities, and transition offence. The Heat like to turn fast breaks off turnovers into vicious dunks at the other end to get their crowd hyped up. Brooklyn held Miami to less than 10 fast-break points in all three of their games this regular season.
Despite a sub-par record against the Nets this year, the Heat are the defending champs for a reason. They disregard any regular season stats and bring their game to another level in the postseason. In the 2011-12 season, Miami went 1-3 against the Boston Celtics in the regular season, only to beat them in a seven game battle in the Eastern Conference Finals.
One familiar story from the Celtics old rivalry with the Heat and Nets newly formed one is Paul Pierce. The Truth always seems to get up for games against LeBron James and Heat and this season has been no exception. Pierce has averaged just 13.5 points per game this year, but in their three games against the Heat, he has jumped that average to 20.6. If the Nets want to replicate their regular season success in the playoffs, they will need to Paul Pierce to play like he did in his Boston days.
To meet in the second round of the playoffs, both teams will have to win their opening round series, with Miami holding on to the first seed in the East, and Brooklyn maintain the fourth or fifth seed.
While tonight’s Heat Nets game may just be another regular season match up, the momentum gained from this potential second round playoff preview will reward the victor with an invaluable amount of confidence heading into the NBA postseason.
Commentary By Eric Kummel