The Miami Heat have taken advantage of a favorable stretch in the schedule to crawl back above .500. The Heat will try to stay hot when they host another team well below .500 in the finale of a four-game homestand Friday against the Brooklyn Nets.
Miami is 7-3 during a span in which it has played six teams that entered Thursday at least 10 games below .500, including the Nets in Mexico City on Dec. 9 and the slumping Orlando Magic, whom the Heat toppled 107-89 on Tuesday. “We were getting good looks all night,” guard Wayne Ellington told reporters after Miami scored 64 points after halftime in the win. “The first half they didn’t really fall for us, but we stayed patient.” Brooklyn dropped the first three legs of a five-game road trip and seven of eight overall after a 128-113 setback at New Orleans on Wednesday. Reserve guards Caris LeVert and Nik Stauskas combined for 43 points while the Nets’ starters totaled just 33 on 12-of-29 shooting.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, YES (Brooklyn), FSN Sun (Miami)
ABOUT THE NETS (12-22): Quincy Acy scored 18 points off the bench in Wednesday’s loss and combined with LeVert and Stauskas to make 14-of-21 3-pointers, with Stauskas matching a franchise record for a bench player with his seven triples. “I just felt like that second group was giving us the best chance,” coach Kenny Atkinson told reporters after riding the bench down the stretch. “I didn’t feel it from our first group. I felt like the second group was playing with energy and sharing the ball and competing. They still couldn’t get the stops we needed, but I said, ‘We’re going to stick with them.’ They earned that right.” Atkinson hinted he might adjust the starting lineup but any changes likely won’t involve swingman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who is averaging 16.2 points and 8.4 rebounds over his last five games.
ABOUT THE HEAT (18-16): Center Hassan Whiteside returned from an 11-game absence due to a knee injury in the win over Orlando, producing seven points and eight rebounds in 18 minutes. “I don’t expect somebody to miss that many games and come right back in and everybody have terrific rhythm, including him,” coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters. “There’s going to be a little bit of a process.” Whiteside missed the win over the Nets in Mexico City and was limited to averages of nine points and 6.3 rebounds in three meetings last season, well below his season marks of 17 points and 14.1 boards.
1. Heat SF Josh Richardson is averaging 21.5 points over his last six games.
2. LeVert is 12-for-19 from 3-point range over a five-game span and Stauskas is 19-for-33 in six contests since joining Brooklyn.
3. Miami has won six straight meetings.
PREDICTION: Heat 109, Nets 99