Rolling at Home, Heat Can Clinch Playoff Spot by Beating Nets

Matthew Jordan

Friday, March 30, 2018 4:22 PM UTC

Friday, Mar. 30, 2018 4:22 PM UTC

The Miami Heat will return to the postseason by beating a bad Brooklyn Nets club Saturday night in the final meeting of the season between the teams.

Brooklyn (24-51, 42-33 ATS) at Miami (41-35, 38-32-6 ATS)Free NBA Pick: UnderBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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A light NBA schedule on Saturday, probably in part because of the Final Four. The lone 8 p.m. ET tip on the pro side features Brooklyn visiting Miami as the teams close out their season series.

The Nets surprisingly are 2-1 vs. the Heat this season, and all three games have been played at different locations. How’s that, you ask? They first met on Dec. 9 in Mexico City, a de facto Brooklyn home game, and Miami won 101-89. That was the Heat’s first-ever game south of the border. The Nets managed just 36 second-half points after 53 in the first.

On Dec. 29 in south Florida, the Heat laid an egg in a 111-87 loss. The Heat led 18-8 early, then were outscored 85-37 over the next 28 minutes. The Nets were up as many as 38 in beating Miami for the first time since Dec. 28, 2015. The teams last met Jan. 19 in Brooklyn and the Nets were 101-95 winners, rallying from 16 down about midway through the third quarter.

Joe Harris leads the Nets in scoring vs. Miami this season at 16.5 ppg. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is putting up 14.3 ppg and 7.3 rebounds per. D’Angelo Russell has only played 14 total minutes vs. Miami. In two games, Hassan Whiteside is averaging 19.5 ppg and 10.5 rpg vs. Brooklyn. Goran Dragic is putting up 16.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg and 4.0 apg.

The Nets have covered just three of the past 14 meetings.

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Heat May Be Watching Pistons Game

The Nets are playing out the string but not necessarily tanking because their first-round pick is going to Cleveland via Boston, the final payment due on that disastrous Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett deal to the Celtics a few years back.

Brooklyn has generally proven it can beat the bad teams around the league. For example, its five victories dating to the start of February are against Chicago, Charlotte, Dallas, Memphis and Orlando. The Nets ended a three-game slide with a 111-104 victory at the Magic on Wednesday. Russell had one of his better games of the season with 16 points, 12 assists, five rebounds and just two turnovers in his fourth double-double of the season. Over his past five, Russell is averaging 7.6 assists. The Nets are behind only the Houston Rockets in 3-pointers attempted (35.0) and made (12.4 per game). Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll, Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie have all made at least 120 of them. It’s the first time in franchise history the Nets have had more than two different players with at least 120.

Miami has a magic number of one for clinching a playoff spot – it can clinch before taking the court if the Pistons lose at the Knicks in a 5 p.m. ET tip. The Heat would still have plenty of motivation, though, to finish sixth or seventh in the East instead of eighth and face Toronto in the playoffs. I’m guessing Miami would love to avoid the Raptors or Cavaliers in the first round and face the Kyrie Irving-less Celtics.

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That's how you protect a 4th quarter lead!!

MIAMI HEAT BASKETBALL! pic.twitter.com/KTUQgPk7L1

— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) March 30, 2018
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The Heat won their eighth straight home game Wednesday and improved to 18-5 there vs. the East with a 103-92 victory over the tanking Bulls. Miami improved to 25-6 this season when holding opponents to under 100 points. The big news there was the return of Whiteside from a nine-game injury (hip) absence. The center had eight points and seven rebounds in 19 minutes. However, Tyler Johnson left in the first half with a sprained right ankle.

With Whiteside back, the Heat are better defensively with his shot-blocking prowess (he’s third in Heat history in the category). Plus, they might not have Johnson, who averages nearly 12.0 ppg. The ‘under’ is 7-0 in Miami’s past seven vs. teams with losing records and has hit in seven straight meetings between these teams. That’s the call for a Saturday NBA pick.

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