Preview: Nets hope to change fortunes vs. Heat in Mexico City
Brooklyn aims to get its first win against Miami in almost two years
The Nets haven’t had much luck against the Heat in recent years, so they hope a change of scenery might do the trick.
Brooklyn is currently on a five-game losing streak to Miami, which dates back to Dec. 28, 2015. Still, things could be lining up nicely for the Nets in Saturday’s game.
The team has impressed in international play, winning it last four global games (which dates back to 2011), and could push its current winning streak to three games if it manages to secure a victory. That streak would match last season’s longest stretch, which came in April. And with Hassan Whiteside out with injury, the Nets could have a favorable matchup at the Arena Ciudad de México.
Here’s What to Expect:
Key Matchup: Erik Spolestra vs. Kenny Atkinson
Erik Spolestra is a two-time NBA title winner, but he’s still one of the youngest coaches in the league at just 47 years old. While many have attributed his success to strong roster he had between 2010-14 with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, he’s proven to a strong motivator without that star trio. The rebuilding Heat almost made the playoffs last season as the team at one point went on a 13-game win streak.
Atkinson hasn’t been a head coach as long as Spolestra has, yet he’s already shown some similarities to the Miami coach. The Nets head coach has managed to get the most out of undervalued talent like his counterpart has and is starting to build a strong reputation in the league. It will be intriguing to see what Xs and Os both men come up with in Mexico City.
Can Nets take advantage of Whiteside’s absence?
The Nets have struggled at times to guard All-Star big men, so the news of the Heat star center being sidelined is likely a positive for Atkinson’s side. However, Brooklyn can’t afford to be complacent. There’s too much at stake.
The Nets sit just 3.5 games back from the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. If they beat the 10th-placed Heat, they would leapfrog them in the standings. Still, Miami could take advantage of Whiteside’s absence to open up spacing on the court. The team’s potential lineup of Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Josh Richardson and Kelly Olynyk all have range and could match the Nets’ high-paced offense. Perimeter defending will be key in this game.
Can Caris LeVert keep his hot streak going?
LeVert is starting to show why the Nets traded Thaddeus Young to acquire his draft rights in the 2016 NBA Draft. Over the past two games, the 23-year-old is averaging 19 points, 8 assists and 2 steals on 56 percent shooting. He also played a vital role in containing Russell Westbrook in the second half, which helped in securing a win against the Thunder in the first of the 2017 NBA Mexico games.
LeVert’s strong performances lately is nothing short of incredible, especially considering that he’s playing out of position at point guard due to the various injuries to the team’s roster. He will likely line up against Dragic and Tyler Johnson on Saturday, neither of whom are strong defenders. The good times could keep rolling.