Nets Ready for Rematch with Heat
Tonight, the Nets take on the Heat in Miami for the first time since being blown out in the season's third game. That 103-73 loss, played without Gerald Wallace, was a start-to-finish butt-kicking.
"We owe them one," said center Andray Blatche, after last night's victory in Orlando. "And everybody in this locker room knows that. So we’re going to out there with an attitude and a chip on our shoulder and be focused and try to get that win."
Point guard Deron Williams explained the biggest difference iis that 12 games later, the Nets are "light years" ahead developmentally. The numbers at NBA.com/Stats bear out Williams' thought: In their five-game winning streak, which includes quality victories over the Clippers, Knicks and Celtics, the Nets' defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) has plummeted from 100.0 (Games 1-10) to 92.7 (during the streak) -- best in the league for everyone's last five games.
And the Nets' offense has continued to produce during the streak, scoring 103.6 points per 100 possessions, right around the league average (the Nets play at the league's slowest pace, and have been averaging 92.7 points per game versus 82.1 points allowed). Though their point production has slowed somewhat with the focus on defense, the Nets have ranked among the league's top six teams in turnover percentage all season, seeing all but 14.6 percent of their total possessions end in turnovers. That's allowed them to set up the defense and limit transition opportunities, a crucial element to slowing down Miami's offensive attack.
Leading the defensive effort will be the man they call "Crash," Gerald Wallace. Even with Brook Lopez out, Wallace's presence allows the Nets to utilize a variety of lineups, from "going small" with an extra guard and Wallace at power forward to bringing in Mirza Teletovic as a stretch 4. Most importantly, Wallace can be tasked with guarding LeBron James.
"Gerald makes a big difference for us, and it’s not just against LeBron," said coach Avery Johnson. "It’s him playing in our whole team concept, especially when we go small with him at 4 – that’s been a pretty good lineup for us. We’ll see where we are, we’re on a back to back game. The Heat will be wating for us, but after tomorrow we’ve got a two-day break, so we’re going to throw everything out there and see what happens."