Nets visiting sizzling Heat in Miami
Brooklyn chasing season high-tying third straight win
The last time the Nets were in Miami, the Heat were trying to avoid their worst start since the 2007-08 season.
Thursday night at the Kaseya Center, Brooklyn will be out to slow down the NBA’s hottest team.
Seeking their season high-tying third consecutive victory and fourth in five games, the Nets visit Biscayne Boulevard to face a resurgent Miami team that has won its last six games.
“We have a will to win,” Heat center Bam Adebayo said after putting up 21 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in a 111-105 victory at Charlotte that helped Miami improve to 2-0 in NBA Cup play.
Jimmy Butler poured in a season-high 32 points and Duncan Robinson added 18 for the Heat (7-4), who have scored nearly 114 points per contest during their hot streak, which began two days after they suffered a 109-105 home loss to Brooklyn on Nov. 1 that dropped them to 1-4.
The victory over the Hornets capped a perfect 4-0 homestand for Miami, which has also risen to the top of the Southeast Division.
“We talked at the start of this trip that this month would be an opportunity for us to be able to galvanize around a tough schedule and see if we can become better,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
“It’s always harrowing on the road, but we have found different ways to win.”
So have the Nets, who proved it in Miami at the beginning of this month.
G-League call-up Armoni Brooks played the hero off the bench, scoring 17 points in only 16 minutes as Brooklyn overcame a 15-point, first-half deficit.
“That’s the best part of basketball, showing up with who you have and staying together as a team and pulling out a victory on the road against a really good team,” coach Jacque Vaughn said after the Nets won without injured starters Cam Johnson and Nic Claxton.
Both of those players are back in the fold as Brooklyn returns to Miami, but leading scorer Cam Thomas (ankle) and top rebounder Ben Simmons (back) remain unavailable for the rematch.
Neither of those absences cost the Nets in their last two games, including Tuesday night’s rousing 124-104 win over Orlando at Barclays Center that lifted Brooklyn to 2-1 in NBA Cup action.
Spencer Dinwiddie, filling in for Simmons at point guard, amassed a season-high 29 points and a game-best nine assists for the Nets, who will be seeking their first three-game winning streak since Oct. 30-Nov. 3 on Thursday.
”(Dinwiddie) really gave us a big lift with some timely buckets,” said Johnson, who had a season-high 20 points in his third game back from a calif injury.
“That kind of hurts the other team’s confidence. Guys played well across the board.”
Though Brooklyn has struggled to put its starting five out in good health since the season opener, the Nets’ “Bench Mob” has proven worthy of carrying the load.
Royce O’Neale scored 13 points and Lonnie Walker IV and Day’Ron Sharpe added 11 apiece against Orlando in a reserve role. Sharpe also pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds for the Nets, who outscored Miami’s bench 50-26 in their last meeting.
The Heat will be without point guard Tyler Herro, a player the Nets coveted this past offseason, and guard R.J. Hampton (knee).
Herro put up 30 points on 12-of-23 shooting against the Nets in the teams’ initial encounter. He hasn’t played since suffering a Grade 2 ankle sprain vs. Memphis on Nov. 8.
Simmons, who was averaging 6.5 points, 10.8 boards and 6.7 assists in Brooklyn’s first six contests, hasn’t suited up for action since a 129-125 loss to Milwaukee at Barclays on Nov. 6.
The enigmatic point guard missed several games with what was originally diagnosed as a hip injury, but an MRI this week revealed a nerve impingement in his surgically repaired lower back, forcing the 6-foot-10 playmaer to sit out for at least another week.
“I’m going to take a positive approach to this thing and hopefully a week from now he’s feeling better when we have an update for you guys,” Vaughn said of Simmons. “But no athlete wants to be hurt.”
Banged up but resilient, both of these teams have displayed great resiliency after faltering out of the gate.
But the Nets hope to leave South Beach as the only team to beat the Heat thus far this month.
NOTHING BUT NET: The Nets are riding a five-game winning streak against Miami into Thursday’s meeting. The Heat haven’t won a game in the series since a 113-107 triumph at Barclays Center on March 3, 2022. Adebayo led the way for Miami that night with 30 points and 11 rebounds. … After visiting the Heat, the Nets will return to Downtown Brooklyn on Sunday afternoon to host Philadelphia at 3 p.m. … The Nets are 3-2 on the road this season while Miami has lost only once in its first four home contests.
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