When the 2013-14 season kicked off in autumn, many orbiting the hoopshere predicted that the Brooklyn Nets would battle the Miami Heat for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
After all, adding the Big Ticket, The Truth, AK-47 and JET to the formidable triumvirate of Lopez, Johnson and Williams would surely get the Nets somewhere close to the East’s pole position. Whispers of the first NBA Championship in Metro NY since 1973 were heard on subway platforms from Brooklyn Heights to Bensonhurst.
However, the realities of age, injuries, team chemistry and new roles took their collective toll on first-year coach Jason Kidd’s squad. Brooklyn stumbled out of the gate, going 5-14 in the first quarter of the season.
But with the new year came a revitalized and more tenacious group. Despite losing All-Star center Lopez for the season, Brooklyn is 22-9 in 2014, better than every other team in the East during this 2.5 month period.
And with 75% of the schedule behind them, the Nets have climbed above .500 to 32-30, good for a solid 6th seed. Though nowhere near where they thought they’d be at this juncture, Brooklyn is starting to resemble a scary, poised opponent.
Tonight the Nets and Heat will battle in the third of four 48’s this season. Brooklyn bested LeBron and friends in the prior two meetings, once in the Orange State and once in the Empire State.
At 44-17 Miami is second in the East, 1.5 games behind Indiana. On Monday night at home they ended a 3-game losing streak, topping the upstart Wizards 99-90. MVP James led his team with 23 points, 8 dimes, 7 boards and 3 steals.
With 21 games remaining in the regular season, Miami has time to catch the Pacers and will try to make a statement on their homecourt. The Heat have the league’s second-best home mark at 25-4, while Brooklyn is just 12-19 away from Barclays this season.
19th-year veteran Garnett has missed the past six games for the Nets and will also miss tonight’s big test. Andrei Kirilenko was ruled out due to a sprained right ankle and will miss his second straight game.
Tune in to the YES Network at 7PM ET to see if the Nets can be the rare team to win the season series against this Miami juggernaut. Ian Eagle and I will be back in the booth, and Sarah Kustok will join us from the sidelines!
After 35 games the 14-21 Brooklyn Nets are currently slotted in the 8th spot in the tortuous Eastern Conference.
While this record may not seem playoff-worthy, it looks a lot better after a season-high, four-game winning streak, which coach Jason Kidd’s guys hope to extend tonight at home against the 27-9 Miami Heat.
LeBron and company played the other New York City league affiliate last night in Manhattan. Surprisingly they came out on the losing side to the 13-22 Knicks by a score of 102-92.
The Heat were without PG Mario Chalmers, who missed the last two games with a right Achilles strain. League MVP James led his team with 32 points, and Wade chipped in 23.
Both sides shot around 54% from the field. However, NY pounded the Heat on the offensive glass, which led to 14 more field goal attempts. Miami’s 52.4% shooting from the charity stripe was also a factor, and Flash was chippy after the 48 when asked about his 0-6 free throw struggles.
Brooklyn kicked off their recent win streak with their best coup of the season on January 2nd at OKC.
The Nets have since dispatched Cleveland, Atlanta and Golden State at Barclays. In fact, in their impressive take-down of the Warriors on Wednesday night, the Nets ended the Dubs’ 10-game winning streak.
Playing without C Brook Lopez and PG Deron Williams, Brooklyn’s 102-98 victory was helped by having five players in double figures, led by Joe Johnson’s 27. In addition, C Andray Blatche contributed 17 points off the bench.
Tonight’s game will be the second of four meetings between these squads this season. The first, also in the borough, was on November 1st. That night the Nets prevailed 101-100 with both Lopez and Williams in the lineup. Coach Kidd relied on 11 players’ contributions in the true team win.
Tune in to tonight’s “nickname game” on YES at 8PM ET to see if Brooklyn can continue their winning ways against the scary, 2X defending NBA Champs.
The 2013 NBA Finals kick off in Miami tonight, and as is the case in most championship rounds there are plots on top of subplots and buried storylines soon to be unearthed in the hot glow of the Ring Round.
The Heat and Spurs are worthy adversaries. Both are veteran teams that have been infused with a little bit of youth in key positions. Both have deep rosters with several stars and experienced guys coming off the bench. Both possess players who have competed in a number of important playoff games during their careers. Both boast excellent 3-point shooting capabilities. And both teams are led by outstanding coaches.
The Heat beat the Spurs twice this season, but how these teams performed in their two regular season meetings doesn’t carry much weight. Pop sent his core of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker Manu Ginobili and Danny Green back home to rest after a rough six-game road trip prior to the first game in Miami. And Spoelstra sat LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers in their second matchup.
A concern for the Spurs is that their almost 10-day layoff after sweeping Memphis in the WCF could hinder their performance in the finals – rest vs. rust. It also remains to be seen how the Heat will hold up physically after a grueling 7-gamer against Indiana in the ECF.
Will these Finals be remembered as one of the best? After all, many hoops heads have both Tim Duncan and LeBron James on their all-time NBA starting five. One would have to go back to Magic vs. Larry and Michael vs. Magic to equal the historical mano-a-mano accomplishments of Duncan and James.
Wade and Bosh, Parker and Ginobili – which duo will come through when it really counts? We know that Wade has a bum knee and that Bosh twisted his ankle in the ECF. Can both or either of them produce at their career averages, or will they continue to struggle? Has Tony Parker elevated his game and gone from star to superstar this postpeason? Is Parker the second best player in this series?
Will second-year wingman Kawhi Leonard be able to slow LeBron down even a little? Which supporting cast will rise to the occasion? Will the inside presence of 6’11” Tiago Splitter and Duncan give the Heat the same kind of headaches that Indy’s bigs did in the last round?
A fifth ring could cement Coach Gregg Popovich’s (the longest tenured coach in both the NBA and all four big sports leagues) status as one of the all-time top 5 coaches in the league? How impressive would it be if San Antonio were to win the 2013 title 14 years after winning their first one with Pop?!
How will the fact that Miami has played so much heavily scrutinized basketball the past 30 months (3 straight Finals) affect them mentally and physically? And finally, is the world about to bear witness to the best basketball that 28-year-old, 10th-year 4X MVP LeBron James has ever played?
All the answers will be revealed over the next two weeks in what has the makings of a historic NBA Finals. San Antonio Spurs vs. Miami Heat Game 1 will get underway at 9:00 PM ET on ABC.