Nets-Heat Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 06, 2012
The Miami Heat have good reason to believe they'll keep their momentum going into an upcoming two-week road swing. They have yet to lose a home game and their final one before that trip comes Wednesday night against a Brooklyn Nets team they've beaten 10 straight times. Two days after needing Ray Allen's late 4-point play for a narrow win over Denver, Miami's victory Monday wasn't nearly as dramatic. The Heat (3-1) topped 118 points for the third time in four games, beating Phoenix 124-99 to improve to 3-0 at home. The defending champions have won 15 of 17 home games including last season's playoff run, though they will head to the road for six straight games starting Friday in Atlanta. Their next home game after Wednesday will be a Nov. 21 matchup versus Milwaukee. Winning in Miami will be a tall order for the Nets (1-1) in their first regular-season road game since moving to Brooklyn. They've dropped six straight there since Feb. 1, 2008, and have lost 10 in a row overall in the series. LeBron James has won his last 14 games against the Nets. He's averaged 30.3 points in the past four, shooting 67.7 percent from the field. James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh are all averaging 20-plus points as the Heat have averaged a league-high 111.8. They scored 98.5 per game last season. The addition of Allen and his 15.5 points per game certainly help, as does the team's 46.0 percent 3-point shooting. James credits something else. "It starts with the point guard," said James, who is 6 for 11 from 3-point range. Mario Chalmers had 11 assists for the second time in four games Monday after previously reaching double digits three times in his career - none last season. He has committed just six turnovers and has a team-leading nine steals. Chalmers had three steals Monday as the Heat had their best defensive effort of the season. They held the Suns to 39.8 percent shooting and kept an opponent under 100 points for the first time. They also had a 49-38 advantage on the boards after being outrebounded twice in their first three games. "I'll take those two things," coach Erik Spoelstra said. Brooklyn's defense could be in for a struggle to stop Miami's Big Three after getting outscored 32-10 in the fourth quarter of a 107-96 home loss to Minnesota on Monday. The Nets led by as many as 22 in the second half. "We just relaxed defensively," coach Avery Johnson said. "We started trading baskets with them in the third quarter and never really could get stops." Brooklyn's rebounding (35.5 per game) and points allowed (103.5) both rank near the bottom of the league. Defeats like Monday's might have been expected at times in the Nets' injury-plagued 2011-12 campaign as they went 22-44, but with a new home and new expectations, this season is a different story. "Losses like this have to really sting more than they ever have in the past," said newcomer Joe Johnson, who had 19 points. "Losses like this can come back to bite you later on in the year." Among the bright spots for the Nets has been Brook Lopez, averaging 20.0 points after playing just five games last season due to injury. Free-agent acquisition C.J. Watson has provided a spark off the bench with 12.5 points in 25.5 minutes per game as the backup to Deron Williams, who has averaged 18.5 points and 11.0 assists. Williams was limited to 26 points over two matchups with Miami last season. Forward Gerald Wallace is questionable with a sprained ankle that forced him to sit out against Minnesota.
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