That team is the Brooklyn Nets, who currently own the best Eastern Conference record (22-9) since the start of the new year. Even LeBron James knows the importance of this game due to how the Nets have wiped the floor with the Heat in all three of their pre-season and regular season matchups.
This will absolutely be a redemption game for the Heat, as the Nets have outscored them by a total of 10 points in both matchups. The Nets have the prototypical build of a team that can give the Heat fits, with lengthy athletic guards (Deron Williams and Joe Johnson) and a sizable frontcourt that can score at will (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez).
Although their record may not show it, the Nets also have one of the top-10 defenses in the league, holding their opponents to just 98.9 points per game. How do the Heat compare? They rank just seventh in the league by holding their opponents to 98.4 points per game. Both teams play tough-nosed defense, so expect a slow offensive matchup.
The way the Heat will win this game is by forcing the Nets into turnovers. They were able to beat out the Washington Wizards on Monday by doing just that. The Heat were out-rebounded by 19, but forced the Wizards into 19 turnovers, which resulted in 22 fast break points.
This is the exact game plan defensively that the Heat need to exploit against the Nets. This type of defensive style is derived from energy, and if this Heat team truly has this game circled, energy shouldn’t be a problem tonight.