Surprise! Depleted Miami Heat Host Brooklyn Nets


It’s been a long season for the Miami Heat (28-35) and tonight’s game against Brooklyn Nets (25-37) is just part of that continuing theme. The team has been beset by injury and inconsistency and with key players missing from the lineup, head coach Erik Spoelstra will have to make do with whomever is available. Will it be enough to pull out a victory?

Start Time: 7:30 p.m. EST
Location: Game will be played in Miami at the AmericanAirlines Arena
TV Info: Fox Sports
Radio: 104.3 The Ticket

As the NBA playoffs loom in the distance, you’ll hear a lot about magic numbers as teams jockey for the final positioning. For Miami, that number is “26.”

But that number has nothing to do with their place in the standings (currently ninth in the Eastern Conference and a half-game back of the Charlotte Hornets) but rather the staggering amount of different starting lineups the Heat have put out this season. That total ranks third in the NBA behind New York (32) and Philadelphia (29), two teams that are far removed from the playoff picture.

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As discussed during this site’s most recent podcast, this has been a season of many different versions of the Heat (Remember the brief Shannon Brown era? Yeah, me neither…) and tonight will be just another opportunity to field a completely different starting unit. Hassan Whiteside has been deservedly suspended for one-game following an incident with Boston’s Kelly Olynyk on Monday night. Injuries could limit the frontcourt even further, as Chris Andersen (ankle) and Udonis Haslem (wrist, knee…everything but his hair probably hurts) might also miss the game. So who does that leave as Miami’s best option at center?

Michael Beasley.

Yes, Beasley, playing on his second 10-day contract might be tonight’s starter against the Nets at center if Andersen is not available. Even if the Birdman does play, B-Easy might find himself starting at power forward, anyway – the team’s options are that limited right now. And while Beasley’s latest stint with the team has been more successful than anticipated (with the exception of his sub-par shot selection), he’s not well-equipped to handle Brooklyn’s center tandem of Mason Plumlee and Brook Lopez.

The Heat might be welcoming back Goran Dragic into the lineup after missing the last two games due to back pain; after scoring 20 points per game in the three games prior to his injury, he’ll certainly provide a boost. And Dwyane Wade, who’s battled through lingering hamstring issues and inconsistency (of course), is coming off one of his best game of the season, a 34-point outing against the Celtics. As per, he’s shot 55.3 percent in his last six matchups against the Nets.

Of course, the Nets aren’t expected to simply roll over for Miami. Brooklyn was blown out by the red-hot New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday but their goal is still to make the playoffs. As Deron Williams told reporters earlier this week:

"“Every game at this point is a big game. The teams in front of us are not showing any signs of slowing down."

And while Miami has actually sped up since the acquisition of Dragic, you wonder if they can continue to battle through the exhausting process of waking up each day unsure of what team will be on the floor.

Next: Is Hassan Whiteside the NBA's Most Improved Player?