After a historic first round, it’s time for the second round match ups. In this one we have the second seed Miami Heat, fresh off of a four game sweep of the Charlotte Bobcats, taking on the sixth seed Brooklyn Nets, who faced off against the Toronto Raptors in a series as competitive as it gets. During the regular season the Brooklyn Nets won the season series 4-0 and should have a lot of confidence going into this match up, as they feel they built this team to be able to match up with the Heat. No one should buy much into the regular season series mattering much in the playoffs, but there are a few things the Nets can take away from the match, and some things the Heat can take away and adjust too.
Heat Keys to Victory
Don’t stray away from what worked – The Heat need to continue doing the things that work for them. Most think the Heat need to try other things because the Heat “struggled” vs the Nets, when the reality is that the games between these two teams were as tight as four games could be. Three of which were one point wins and the other one being an overtime win. The fact is this “sweep” could of easily went the Heats way.
Control the tempo – Many fans and pundits want the Heat to play faster because of the age of Brooklyn’s roster, but is that what the Heat should or will do? Obviously they’ll take advantage of numbers and do there normal fast breaks, but they won’t run just to run. If the Heat do play at a faster pace than they are accustomed to, that could lead to sloppy play and turnovers which is something that Coach Spoelstra doesn’t want.
Contain Joe Johnson – One of the most ridiculed players in the league (because of a contract Atlanta foolishly gave him), Joe Johnson is the player the Heat must try and contain. After being a match up nightmare for the Raptors, it is now Miami’s turn to figure out how to stop the smooth wing. Johnson can put the ball on the floor, post up, and shoot it from deep. His combination of size and skill poses an interesting dilemma for the Heat, do you go with LeBron James or Shane Battier to defend him? If it is in fact LeBron, doesn’t that open things up for Paul Pierce?
Nets Keys to Victory
Build on Regular Season Success– The Heat love to attack the ball handler coming out of a pick and rolls, this is one of the ways they create so many turnovers. Everyone on the court for Miami is quick enough to rotate and recover, the Nets attack the Heat in a few different ways, one of which is using Livingston and Williams in the post. Brooklyn shouldn’t post those two guards for the sake of it, but Livingston has been fairly efficient on post ups this season (averaged 1.21 PPP in post-up situations).
Hit shots – Yes, this sounds so simple but it is very important? If the Nets don’t hit three pointers at a high rate, this series will be over and over fast. During the regular season match up, Pierce and Johnson went 15-43 from deep. That trend must continue if they want to pull off the upset.
Deron Williams– Another guy who has become a target of the masses for his play and contract worth, Williams will have to come up big in this match up if the Nets are to win. One of the key factors is going to be who is guarding him, during the regular season D-Will did extremely well when guarded by one of the Heat point guards. Especially from behind the arc, where he shot 50% when being guarded by Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole. His three point shooting dropped to 14% when guarded by anyone else in a Heat uniform. Williams is going to have to take advantage of the situations when he’s defended by Chalmers or Cole, then elevate his play when defended by other Miami defenders.
I’m going to go with the Heat in six games. I realize the Nets won the season series 4-0 (history isn’t kind to teams that get swept in season series in the playoffs), but that history shouldn’t apply to this two teams. All four regular season contests basically came down to one possession, in two of those Miami played without Wade. I just think the Heat are too good of a team for this Nets team, which is why I have it ending in six.