Williams recently received injections into his troublesome ankle. His return is uncertain.
On Friday the Nets will face a Miami Heat that will play on the second night of their own back-to-back after losing to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.
For LeBron James and the Miami Heat they now have added motivation. They surely already wanted to avoid going 0-2 to Brooklyn after suffering a defeat early in the season to the Nets. Now they want to avoid losing two straight games to the two New York teams that have been huge disappointments this season.
For the Nets to keep their win streak alive will be a difficult task. The Heat are extremely athletic and have a fast swarming defense when fully focused. One thing that could help the Nets is if the Heat decide to sit Dwyane Wade for the game. Wade has troublesome knees and Miami has decided to rest him for multiple games this season.
As far as defensive assignments go, the Nets will use multiple against James. Paul Pierce may get the start on him but don't be surprised to see Joe Johnson and Andrei Kirilenko all figure to spend time on James. If Wade plays, Johnson, Shaun Livingston and Alan Anderson will all see time guarding him. Kevin Garnett, Andrei Kirilenko, Andray Blatche and Mirza Teletovic could all switch up to guard the dangerous Chris Bosh.
Miami will spread the floor with Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, Michael Beasley and Norris Cole. Beasley has been for the most part a nice role player this season. Beasley is athletic and can create his own shot. Plus, he's committed himself on the defensive end more so than at any other point in the season.
The Nets are undefeated in the New Year with a victory at the Oklahoma City Thunder, then three straight home wins against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors, the last two without Williams. Their defense is rapidly improving and players seem to be finding their roles with the team.
Early in the season players were complaining that they did not know what their role was. Some people were calling for Jason Kidd to be fired. Now it appears that Kidd is finally getting some respect and is improving as a coach.
The Nets will need to keep up their recent play if they stand any chance against Miami without Deron Williams and Brook Lopez. The bench will need to continue to be as effective as they have been. Kevin Garnett will need to make his presence felt on the defensive end and hit a couple of jumpers. Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson will need to play well and be the Nets best players. Livingston will need to be effective as the team's leading point guard and continue to be disruptive on the defensive end as well.
If the Nets want to keep their win streak alive, it will be a difficult task against the defending champs but it can be done.
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