The Miami Heat are set to tip off against the Brooklyn Nets tonight at 7 p.m at American Airlines Arena in Miami. The series has gotten more and more tense the last four meetings, making it obvious that these two teams don’t like each other.
The Nets were able to sweep the Heat in all four meetings, using their size and depth to overwhelm LeBron and company. Mirza Teletovic, Mason Plumlee, Marcus Thornton, and Shaun Livingston were all key contributors for the Nets in all four marquee wins.
We all know what Paul Pierce brings to the table, but we haven’t seen Kevin Garnett playing like his old self against the Heat. With a renewed rivalry and a better supporting cast, Pierce and Garnett should be able to keep up with the Heat, making it just as interesting as 2011.
Will the Heat be able to overcome the Brooklyn Nets to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals? Here’s five keys to a Game 1 win against the Brooklyn Nets.
5. Limit the scoring of the Nets’ role players
Mirza Teletovic has scorched the Heat when given minutes, especially from deep. In three games against the Heat, Teletovic shot 40% from three, spreading the floor for Deron Williams and Paul Pierce to attack the basket. Mason Plumlee has emerged has a rim protector, blocking LeBron James’ potential game winning shot in their last meeting. The Nets have outstanding bench depth, and it’s up to players like Shane Battier and Chris Andersen to limit their production.
4. Win the rebound battle
The Nets have out-rebounded the Heat 161 to 137 combined in all four wins. The Heat have never been a good rebounding team, but players like Bosh, Haslem, and Andersen need to own the boards tonight. One thing to note is that Bosh has averaged 6.7 rebounds against the Nets, which is a big indicator that the Nets have been getting second opportunities to score.
3. Get some easy baskets in transition
The Heat are the one of the best teams in transition, if not the best. LeBron and Wade make of the best duo’s of teammates in transition because of their elite athleticism and ability to finish at the rim. According to Elias Sports Bureau, “The Nets are forcing the Heat to play at a slower pace, as the Heat are averaging nearly 7 fewer possessions per game against the Nets than they are against all other teams.” The Heat don’t have the best half-court offense, so being able to get out in transition should be a priority.
2. Get Dwyane Wade the ball
Dwyane Wade has averaged just hair over 21 points per game in his two meetings against the Nets. Wade has always thrived against the Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, especially in the playoffs. Joe Johnson should be matched up against Wade on defense, which means Wade will be able to get to the rim more because of Johnson’s poor defensive skills. When Wade can get the defense to collapse, that means Chalmers or Bosh are usually open for three. Wade opens up the floor for the Heat, nonetheless.
1. Get LeBron the switches on offense he needs
Would you believe if I told you that Paul Pierce locks down LeBron on offense? According to ESPN Stats and Info, in LeBron’s first meeting against the Nets, he struggled with Pierce guarding him (2-8) than with any other defender (9-11). Pierce has never been known as an elite defensive player, but he is scrappy and uses his long arms to close out on shots. A simple pick and roll with Bosh or Haslem can get LeBron matched up against a vulnerable big man like Garnett or Teletovic. Look out for the LeBron-Pierce match up, as it may as well decide the game.