Josh Newman, SNYNets.com
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Nets are 13-4 since interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo took over for the fired Avery Johnson on Dec. 27. Within that massive turnaround that has made the Nets a contender in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference, they have picked things up at home.
At the brand new Barclays Center under Carlesimo, the Nets are 8-0. However, with the exception of the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks, that streak has come against a soft schedule. The Miami Heat do not qualify as soft, which means the home winning streak will be put to the test when the defending NBA champions visit Brooklyn for the first time on Wednesday evening.
The Heat, at an Eastern Conference-best 28-13, will be the first of three straight elite teams visiting Brooklyn. The Chicago Bulls are in town on Friday, with the Lakers, who are just 20-25 but are showing signs of life with three straight wins, visit Barclays on Tuesday.
Overall, the Nets are 17-7 at Barclays Center, which seats 17, 732 for basketball and has sold out 13 times in those 24 games. With the defending champions in town, Wednesday will be No. 14.
“We really wanna come out, establish tempo and pace early and try to hit first,” Joe Johnson said at shootaround on Wednesday morning at PNY Center. “They got guys who are very explosive offensively. Tonight is not a game where we can afford, 12, 15, 20 turnovers. You get ran out the gym like that.”
The Heat took the first two meetings between the teams in Miami. The second meeting on Dec. 1, a 102-89 decision, saw the Heat trail by as many as 14 points before LeBron James and Dwyane Wade spearheaded a 15-2 run late in the third quarter to help them take control for good.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for us,” Brook Lopez said. “We played them very well for the most part in that second game, we were right there. I think it’s a very good outlook.”
On Tuesday, the Heat practiced at Georgetown before departing for New York. During media availability, James was asked about whether or not he was looking forward to playing in Brooklyn for the first time. His answer appeared to represent blunt honesty.
“I’m not losing sleep over it, it’s not like yesterday,” James told reporters in reference to the Heat’s visit to the White House on Monday. “The basket is ten feet and I know how to put the ball in the rim, so I’ll be alright.”
James took to Twitter late Tuesday in an effort to clean up what he said earlier in the day. At 11 p.m., he tweeted, “Really looking forward to playing in the new Barclay Center tomorrow night.”
Deron Williams sat out of Tuesday’s practice with what the Nets called ‘flu-like symptoms’ and didn’t participate in shootaround on Wednesday. There was no definitive word on whether or not he will play on Wednesday night and he is officially listed as probable.
“Timmy’s (athletic trainer Tim Walsh) working with him and, you know, I’m hoping he’s gonna play,” Carlesimo said. “I don’t know what Deron’s saying, I haven’t talked to him yet, but yes, I’m hoping he’s gonna play.”
Williams, who is thought to be in the mix for the Eastern Conference All-Star spot now open thanks to Rajon Rondo being done for the season with a torn ACL, is averaging 18.2 points and 9.2 assists over his last five games. Both of those numbers are above his season averages of 17.1 points and 7.8 assists per game.
In two games against the Heat this season, Williams is averaging 12 points and 7.5 assists.
Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA