NEWS OF THE MORNING
Heat and Nets dismiss regular season series | Westbrook-Paul on center stage | Beal, Wizards prefer underdog role | Jackson’s future with Warriors no easy call | Portland’s Matthews keeps chip on shoulder … always
No. 1: Both sides dismiss regular season sweep by Nets in playoff matchup with Heat — A 4-0 regular season sweep of the Miami Heat sounds good, until you realize that no one — not the Heat nor the Brooklyn Nets team that owned them (technically and at least on paper) during the regular season — believes it matters. Now that their Eastern Conference semifinal matchup is upon us, leaning on what happened between these two in the immediate past doesn’t seem like such a smart decision. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald sets the table:
Nobody on either side reads too much into the Nets’ season sweep, which included three wins by one point and another in double overtime.
Remember that the Heat went 1-3 in the regular season against Boston and 0-3 against Chicago in 2010-11, then eliminated both in five-game playoff series. In 2011-12, Miami again went 1-3 against Boston during the regular season, then ousted the Celtics in a seven-game Eastern Conference finals.
“Regular season doesn’t indicate anything,” LeBron James said, speaking in general after Sunday morning’s practice. “You have more time to prepare” in the postseason.
Said Nets swingman Joe Johnson: “We know we can beat them, but it’s going to be a lot different than the regular season.”
The Nets create potential matchup problems with a starting frontcourt featuring Kevin Garnett at center, Paul Pierce moving from small forward to power forward and Johnson from shooting guard to small forward.
One option for Erik Spoelstra would be starting Rashard Lewis or Shane Battier, instead of Udonis Haslem, to match up defensively with Pierce or Johnson, though it’s unclear whether Spoelstra will do that.
“Chris Bosh will have to match up with Garnett,” Dwyane Wade said. “The challenge is our rotations, of who [Spoelstra] will feel [comfortable] in playing. LeBron can obviously play [power forward]. So we can match down or we can continue to play our style, whatever [Spoelstra] wants to do.”
Johnson said last month that “I think we have a good chance” to beat the Heat in the playoffs because “small-ball works in our favor with them when they have LeBron James or Shane Battier at [power forward]. It’s a great fit.”
Pierce said last month: “We match up pretty good with them. Size-wise, they’re not an overly big team. If you can match them in quickness and intensity, especially on their home court, you give yourself a chance. The way we shoot the ball, we can pretty much play with anybody when we’re on.”
He said Sunday that Heat-Nets “is not a rivalry yet. We’re still trying to earn respect as a franchise.”