MIAMI — They’re expecting more than a few early haymakers.
When the Nets take on the Heat Wednesday night in a nationally-televised matchup, they’re pretty sure they’re going to get Miami’s best effort. Remember, the Nets have already beat the Heat twice this season, upending them in their Nov. 1 home opener in Brooklyn and getting past them again on Super Bowl weekend in January.
With that in mind, the Nets have little doubt LeBron James & Co. are salivating.
“We know a team like this, when you’re a good team like this, you hold grudges,” Deron Williams said before the Nets morning shootaround at AmericanAirlines Arena. “And if a team beats you two times in a row, they’re aware of it, and they are trying to catch Indiana. So every game means a lot to them as well.”
That’s the way Shaun Livingston sees it, too.
“Yeah, absolutely, man,” he said. “I think they are going to come out with the mindset, ‘We are 0-2 against this team, haven’t beat them yet this season.’ And they are a veteran team as well. I think they understand the magnitude of this game and what it means to them.”
The Nets may get some much-needed help. Andrei Kirilenko said he felt pretty good and remained hopeful he’d be able to suit up and play after missing Monday’s win over the Raptors with a sprained right ankle. If he’s able to play, that of course would be a huge boost given the Nets really need his services trying to guard James.
James, as one might recall, called Kirilenko a flopper after the Nets’ win in January and Kirilenko again brushed James’ criticism off.
“It’s all right,” Kirilenko said. “I’ve heard that a few times. I don’t really care what people say. That’s the thing. You come on the floor, you are playing the game and different teams, different players, different situations. So, I’m not really paying attention to what people are saying.”
Since the calendar flipped to 2014, the Nets are 22-9, which just happens to be the best record in the Eastern Conference during that span. They’ve had some solid wins in the last two months, but knocking off the Heat for a third time this season could go a long way in validating themselves, and showing the rest of the NBA that they are indeed a team that’s coming together nicely, and one that's capable of making some serious postseason noise.
“It would be a good win,” Williams said. “We are playing really good right now with the exception of that Boston game. Hopefully a win tonight would mean a lot. This late in the season, every win means a lot, coming down the stretch, trying to prepare for the playoffs, trying to move up in the standings. To beat one of the best teams in the league, the defending champs on their home court would mean a lot.”