MIAMI -- Andray Blatche fired the first salvo, not long after the Nets dispatched the awful Magic Friday night.
With the defending champion Heat on tap Saturday night and the Nets in the midst of a five-game winning streak that’s propelled them to the best start through 15 games in franchise history, Blatche figured it was the perfect time to show the Nets are oozing with confidence.
He wants a little payback for that 103-73 mugging in South Florida back on Dec. 7.
“We owe them one,” Blatche said, standing in front of his stall at Amway Center. “We owe them one and everybody in this locker room knows that. We are going to go out there with an attitude and a chip on our shoulder and be focused and try to get that win.”
When Blatche’s words were relayed a few feet away to Joe Johnson, he agreed the Nets are looking for some payback.
“Oh yeah, definitely,” said Johnson, who’s looking more confident with his shooting stroke lately. “Last time, we went in there, they really kicked out butts from start to finish. We are going to go in there with a different mindset, a different attitude.”
They’re also going in with a big piece that they didn’t have last time around: Gerald Wallace. The swingman missed last month’s tilt as he recovered from the sprained ankle he suffered in the season opener, and he’s happy to be available Saturday.
“I just want to play,” Wallace said. “I’m starting to get my legs back. I’m glad I’m at a comfortable position with myself to play against these guys. We’ll get out there and see how it goes.”
Johnson didn’t sugarcoat what Wallace’s presence means when it comes to going up against the Heat.
“Well, it’s going to be big considering the fact that we will be matched up pretty evenly,” Johnson said, “especially defensively with him guarding LeBron and me guarding [Dwayne] Wade. It’ll be a great matchup and I’m sure it will be a great game as well.“
Wallace downplayed his matchup with LeBron, though.
“LeBron is LeBron,” he said. “He’s like everybody else. You have to make him work for his points. You can’t give him easy shots, you can’t let him get into a comfort zone and you can’t let him get in transition.
"Other than that, you play him like you play everyone else and you make him take tough shots, contested shots.”
Come late Saturday night, when South Beach is just revving up, the Nets should have a good idea of how they stack up with Miami, a team that’s had their number for a while now. The Heat have beaten the Nets 11 straight times, not losing to them since March 20, 2009.
“This is one of the teams we haven’t had much success against – not always winning – we just haven’t played well,” Avery Johnson said. “I want to see if we’ve made any progress. I think one of the things we talked about earlier in the season was we want to see some progress against some of the elite teams in Boston and New York. We just haven’t played well against the Heat.
“I want to see if we can take a step in the right direction. I want to see how far our defense has come and I want us to play really good offense. We haven’t played good offense, either. If it was football – defense, offense or special teams, we haven’t played well.”