The Miami Heat are expected by many to have an easy road to the 2014 NBA Finals. As the two-time defending champs begin their second-round series, the Brooklyn Nets stand in their way.
The No.6 seed enters Game One as a heavy underdog. The point spread at most Las Vegas casinos has Miami listed as an eight-point favorite. Head-to-head matchups in the regular season, though, might indicate that the Nets have a chance to pull off the upset.
The two teams have met four times this year, and all four contests have resulted in Brooklyn victories. The Nets beat Miami in both the first and last month of the season, as well as a contest in January. The Heat know it won’t be easy to hold off a team that has confidence against the NBA’s top club.
“They figured out a way to beat us four times and that hasn’t happened,” said Miami guard Dwyane Wade. “So we’ve got to crack that code.”
Even though they went 4-0 against the Heat, the Nets weren’t exactly dominant. Three of the victories came by just one point, while another game went into overtime. Miami wasn’t always at full strength against Brooklyn. Wade missed two of the matchups, and starting point guard Mario Chalmers sat out once.
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Brooklyn knows that regular-season success doesn’t guarantee them anything in the playoffs. The No.1 seed Indiana Pacers barely got by the 38-win Atlanta Hawks in the first round, and the Washington Wizards easily beat the Chicago Bulls in five games, despite winning four fewer games this year.
"It's not on a rivalry yet,” Paul Pierce said, via Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com. “You can't really create rivalries in the regular season. They're the favorite."
“We know we can beat them, but it's going to be a lot different from the regular season," Joe Johnson said.
The contests between Miami and Brooklyn were played at a very slow pace this season. Only once did the Heat reach 100 points, and the Nets needed overtime to surpass the century mark in one of their matchups. A similar game is expected when the teams start their Eastern Conference semifinals series on Tuesday night.
The over/under has been set at 192.
The game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET on TNT. Viewers can watch a free live stream online with TNT Overtime.
Prediction: It won’t be easy for the Heat to advance like they did in the first round. Brooklyn has controlled the pace when playing Miami, and doing so in Game One could help them steal a victory. The Nets, however, were fortunate to win four close games against the Heat. Pierce had his best games against LeBron James and Co., but hasn’t been nearly as effective in the postseason. Brooklyn should be able to stay in the game, but the Nets’ luck is bound to run out.
Predicted Score: Miami 101, Brooklyn 90