MIAMI — The version of the Nets that their fans are hoping will make the playoffs emerged Saturday night.
The defense was solid but still stifling; the fast break was fueled by turnover. And the result was a stunning 110-95 win by the Eastern Conference’s leading heat in front of a sold-out crowd of 19,600 – including Nets owner Joe Tsai – at the FTX Arena.
Kevin Durant had 23 points and three steals. Seth Curry returned from an ankle injury and scored 17 points. Kyrie Irving – who can now play at home in New York City after being exempted from private sector vaccination mandates – had 11 points and six assists. The Nets led by as much as 37 points before the starters sat out in the fourth quarter.
“You could see the energy and commitment,” said coach Steve Nash. “It’s great when we can turn defense into offense. We can punish at the transition, but really it’s all about getting stops. That’s number 1.”
The Nets had 15 steals and when the starters sat down at the end of the third quarter, they had a 34-8 lead in turnovers. With a 96-68 lead for the Nets, the starters were clearly not needed in game four.
The eighth-ranked Nets (39-35) stayed three games behind the No. 6 Raptors and clawed within two of the quickly fading Cavaliers. Passing the Raptors is key as Irving would not qualify for a play-in game in Toronto.
The Nets also pulled off a game ahead of the ninth-placed Hornets, who they will host in Irving’s first home game of the season on Sunday.
“It was a playoff-like game for us. We’re in that mindset where every game counts; We play every game with a sense of urgency,” said Andre Drummond, who had 13 points, 11 boards and a highlight steal and a fastbreak dunk.
After falling 15-7 with a 3-pointer from PJ Tucker, the Nets closed out the first quarter with a 20-10 run.
They then blew it up with a 40-21 in the second quarter and went into halftime with a 67-46 lead.
With the Nets leading 80-55 and remaining just over seven minutes in the third game, Drummond vaulted a crosscourt pass, sped up – gave the peace sign to pursuing Tyler Herro – and threw a breakaway dunk.
“I don’t know what made me do it. … It just happened,” Drummond said with a shrug.
“It was definitely hilarious in that moment,” Durant added.
That cushion swelled to 94-57, Miami’s biggest deficit of the season, on a Curry 3-pointer late in the third.
“We came down 15-7 early, but we weathered the storm,” Durant said. “We took their hit and were able to move on.”
- Goran Dragic returned from a knee injury. He got a video tribute after playing in Miami from 2014-21.
- Nash said LaMarcus Aldridge (hip) should come back this week, possibly Sunday.
- Ben Simmons hasn’t been cleared for a one-for-zero but YES reported that the leg pain has gone after pain not only in his back but also in his legs.
- Miami coach Erik Spoelstra missed the game due to a medical procedure on one of his sons.
https://nypost.com/2022/03/27/full-strength-nets-blow-out-heat-for-statement-win/ Full strength nets blow out heat for a statement win