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Nets have potential playoff preview in showdown against Heat

MIAMI — The eighth-place Nets will face the Eastern Conference-leading Heat in a potential first-round playoff preview Saturday.

And with just nine games left in the regular season — and their play-in situation tenuous — Brooklyn is well aware of the need to cash in every single time it steps out on the court from here to the finale. And getting roughed up in Wednesday’s loss at Memphis was a sneak peak at the physicality the Nets can expect versus the Heat.

“Yeah, we realize how important each game is. And we will try to bring our best effort from the start,” Kevin Durant said. “I think [Wednesday] was just a slow start. They were able to get up, but I think our third quarter we played basketball. But then they got hot in the fourth there making 3s. They played great. … We know we have to bring it from start to finish.”

Against Miami they’ll have little choice. The Heat figure to be in a feisty mood, having dropped consecutive games in very uncharacteristic fashion that included a sideline altercation in their loss Wednesday to Golden State.

Coach Erik Spoelstra had to be separated from Jimmy Butler on the sideline after a dustup, with Udonis Haslem even telling the star wing, “I’ll beat your a-s.”

After getting beaten 33-18 in second-chance points and outscored 27-7 off turnovers by the Grizzlies, the Nets are bracing for a testy test Saturday.

“I think we were in foul trouble early and it took away some of our aggressiveness on the defensive side of the ball. We just have to be solid,” Durant said. “I think we are going in the right direction.”


Brooklyn’s bench has to be more solid. After Durant and Kyrie Irving teamed up for a staggering 78 points and 16 assists in Memphis, the rest of the lineup combined for just 42 points and two dimes.

The reserves were particularly toothless, with just 11 points on 2-for-11 shooting.


Blake Griffin was a DNP-Coach’s Decision in Memphis after coming off a strong game. Nic Claxton and Andre Drummond — returning after missing the prior game due to the aftereffects of a COVID-19 booster shot — got all the minutes at center with LaMarcus Aldridge (hip) still sidelined.

“I thought Blake played great last game,” coach Steve Nash said. “Over the course of the season or this stretch, I think Andre and Nic are playing very well over the course of these games.”

“I think [Aldridge] has had a terrific season as well, so it’s been tough for Blake, and you can’t play three, four, centers all the time, so I appreciate him staying ready and being able to give us a big lift in that game. It’s not easy to perform in those conditions it’s also not easy mentally to be in that position.”


Nash said he’s optimistic Goran Dragic and Seth Curry, who both missed the loss in Memphis, can suit up Saturday with an extra day’s rest. Curry, out with an ankle injury, is averaging 15.5 points since arriving.

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