During the Big Three era, the Heat has firmly established that regular season success against Miami often doesn’t extend to the playoffs.
But beating the Brooklyn Nets once this season --- something Miami still hasn’t done --- would provide, at the very least, some positive reinforcement amid the possibility of the teams meeting in the second round of the playoffs.
Brooklyn enters Tuesday’s game at AmericanAirlines Arena having gone 3-0 against the Heat this season and with the confidence of knowing it matches up well against the two-time defending champions.
All of the games have been close, with Brooklyn winning by one on Nov. 1, by nine in double overtime on Jan. 10 and by one on March 12 in Miami.
“All we have to know about Brooklyn is we haven't beaten them this year, including the preseason,” coach Erik Spoelstra said.
The teams would meet in the second round if Miami finishes with the top seed in the Eastern Conference (the Heat is one game ahead of Indiana) and if Brooklyn (the likely fifth seed) wins its opening round series against Chicago or Toronto. Brooklyn, which is 32-13 since Jan. 1, is 2 ½ games behind the fourth seed (Chicago) and 2 ½ games ahead of the sixth seed (Washington).
Asked Monday if the Nets have the best chance to knock off the Heat among the Eastern Conference contenders, guard Joe Johnson said: “I think we have a good chance. We can play with any team in this league. We’ve proven it.”
Said Nets point guard Deron Williams: “We like our chances in a seven-game series against anybody.”
But also keep this in mind: The Heat went 1-3 in the regular season against Boston and 0-3 against Chicago in 2010-11, then ousted both in five-game playoff series. In 2011-12, Miami again went 1-3 against Boston during the regular season, then eliminated the Celtics in a seven-game Eastern Conference Finals.
Nets forward Paul Pierce, who played on those Celtics teams, mentioned that Monday before Brooklyn’s practice at AmericanAirlines Arena. (The Heat took Monday off.)
“It really means nothing in the playoffs,” Pierce said of the Nets’ regular-season success against Miami. “Last couple years we [Boston] beat them three times in the regular season also, wound up losing to them in the playoffs. They have the experience as a unit together and they’re the champions. They’re the team to beat.”
But Pierce added: “We match up pretty good with them. Size wise, they’re not an overly big team. If you can match them in quickness and intensity, especially on their home court, you give yourself a chance. The way we shoot the ball, we can pretty much play with anybody when we’re on.
“We don’t like to see them getting up and down, getting dunks, crowd getting into it. That’s pretty much their game. Keep them away from that, and I think for the most part we’ve been able to do that. That’s why we’ve fared pretty well against them.”
Williams concurred, saying: “We’ve done a good job of controlling the tempo and playing our game in the three games against them.”
And Kevin Garnett said another reason for the Nets’ success against Miami is “we get exceptional ball movement. We have different weapons. When we’ve played them, we’ve played to a high level of confidence and been aggressive. Against great teams, you have to do that.”
The Heat had won 13 regular-season games in a row against the Nets heading into the season, but the Nets reshaped their roster by adding Pierce and Garnett, among others.
Both teams could be short-handed on Tuesday. Dwyane Wade, Greg Oden and Chris Andersen all remain questionable with injuries, and Wade told ABC on Sunday that his strained hamstring, which has caused him to miss six games in a row, isn’t where he wants it to be. Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd said Garnett will miss Tuesday’s game because the Nets are being cautious with his back.
A few themes developed in the Heat’s previous losses to Brooklyn. Among them:
### The Nets out-rebounded the Heat by 10, 10 and four in the three games.
### The Heat averaged 16 turnovers in the three losses, with LeBron James committing 14.
### The Heat has had just seven, nine and seven fast break points in the three games.
### Pierce averaged 20.6 points in the three games against Miami – well above his career-low 13.5 scoring average this season. “Games against the Heat, he’s played great,” Johnson said. “I look forward to him continuing that.”
Johnson blitzed Miami for 32 points in one of the wins. There have been some unexpected twists, too, including point guard Shaun Livingston hauling in 11 rebounds in one of the games.
Even though Miami played one of the three games without Wade, the Nets were without Garnett and Williams for one of those games, as well. And Nets center Brook Lopez, out for the season with a foot injury, missed two of those games.
### As expected, Alonzo Mourning was formally announced as a member of the 2014 class for induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball of Fame in Springfield, Mass. Mourning, in brief comments at the Final Four on Monday, said: “I’m humbled and truly honored.” He said he was grateful to John Thompson, his coach at Georgetown, and to Heat president Pat Riley.
Some tidbits from Al Golden’s weekly Monday morning interview with WQAM’s Joe Rose, Golden’s first public comments since Ryan Williams’ torn ACL:
### Golden said he has no idea if Williams will be ready to play at the start the season. (Recovering from the surgery in 4 ½ months would be awfully ambitious, but quarterbacks generally can return more quickly than, say, running backs. It’s certainly possible Williams could be back during the season.)
“We don’t know what the diagnosis is. We have no idea,” Golden said. “The fact there was no swelling is a great sign in terms of the recovery. If it remains that way, they’ll be able to do the surgery immediately. If there’s any silver lining, it’s that.”
Williams suffered the injury when he was running into the end zone during Friday's scrimmage; there was no contact with a defender.
“We were confident he was going to be OK,” Golden said. “It was one of those freak deals. He was just running. There was no swing of the knee.”
Golden said he’s “disappointed for the young man.”
(Some quick perspective on QBs and ACL injuries: Though it’s not a game, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray plans to drop back, roll out, plant his feet and throw at Georgia's pro day April 16, less than five months after his torn ACL.
"He looks great," agent Pat Dye told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "His body composition looks great, his knee looks great, he's moving around really well, he's not favoring it at all.” But again, that’s different from being game-ready.
Another recent example: Browns QB Brian Hoyer, who tore his ACL last October, was given a five-month prognosis because it wasn’t a complete tear.)
### Golden stopped short of giving the job to Kevin Olsen, though he’s the very likely starter at this point ahead of Gray Crow and summer arrivals Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier.
“Clearly there will be a competition if Ryan will be out,” Golden said. “…Was Kevin improving? Yeah, everyone in the building could see that.
“Olsen came in and did a really good job [in Saturday’s scrimmage]. Everyone left with a really good feeling for what Kevin could do by the way he conducted the second half of that scrimmage and led the two-minute drive. His preparation is better. His process is better. You’re starting to see his personality on the field, which is important.
“Olsen and Gray Crow will get a great opportunity here in the next three days. But Rosier and Kaaya clearly have to step up their game, too.”
### Duke Johnson and early arrival Joe Yearby, who have missed the spring with injuries, will be taking snaps in controlled settings this week, mostly in individual drills and walks-throughs, Golden said.
“They’ve been doing great,” Golden told Rose. “We’ll get them out there. We’ll protect them. I see both of these guys running full speed and being back, I’m guessing May if not at the end of this month. Duke is 206 pounds, really changed his body.”
### Golden said receiver Rashawn Scott “has made the biggest difference this spring. He has changed the whole dynamic there. Malcolm Lewis, on Friday night, was the best we’ve seen Malcolm since his freshman year. He was never 100 percent [last year]. He had five catches for 103 yards the other night."
### What defensive player impressed Golden the most this spring? “The safety play,” Golden said. “The safety play has changed dramatically this spring. Deon Bush is healthy and playing with more confidence. Jamal Carter is no longer a freshman. Dallas Crawford brings a toughness, that blue collar mentality, that work ethic, don’t back down to anyone. Those three jump out."
Golden said “the most consistent guy” on defense has been linebacker Raphael Kirby. “He needed that going into his junior year. Those guys at linebacker have been more consistent and bigger.”
And cornerback “Artie Burns has really come on of late. Can’t wait to get Ladarius Gunter back out there.”
### The Spring game, scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday at Sun Life Stadium, will be different than past years.
Golden said because of injuries, UM can’t field two separate teams. So “it’s just going to be offense vs. defense. Some one-on-ones, then seven-on-sevens, then put the ball in various spots…. Fans are going to love it, kids are going to love it.” UM says it will use only a 50-yard field for Saturday's spring game. Alumni will be on the field.
Fans are encouraged to arrive at 3 p.m. for assorted activities.
QUICK DOLPHINS NOTE
The Dolphins made an offer to receiver Nate Burleson, who signed with Cleveland on Sunday night. Burleson picked the Browns because he believed he would have a better opportunity to earn playing time there. The Dolphins have more veteran, accomplished receivers than Cleveland, so Burleson's move makes sense.
Miami is plenty good enough at receiver with Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson, Rishard Matthews and Armon Binns. Hartline, Gibson and Binns are returning from significant knee injuries, but the Dolphins have said they expect all three to be ready to start the season.
The Dolphins have made offers to every free agent who has visited during the first few months of Dennis Hickey's GM tenure. All accepted except Burleson and linebacker D'Qwell Jackson.