MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – The Miami Heat are back on the practice court Monday to prepare for a team they haven’t defeated all year long. That team is the Brooklyn Nets. The Heat and the Nets begin their Eastern Conference semifinals matchup Tuesday night at the AmericanAirlines Arena.
The two-time defending champs have not had a victory over the Nets all season but three of Brooklyn’s wins in the regular season were by a single point, and the fourth was in double overtime.
Dwyane Wade played in only two of four games for Miami, and Brooklyn’s Kevin Garnett also missed two meetings in the series.
In Miami’s favor is the fact they are nice and rested. Miami will have had more than week off after sweeping away the Charlotte Bobcats. But being idle isn’t always a good thing because the team can get out of rhythm.
The Nets are coming in after going on the road and winning a Game 7 against Toronto.
Key matchup I: LeBron James vs. Paul Pierce. This is the fifth time those two will duel in the postseason, Pierce (with Boston) ending James’ season (with Cleveland) in 2008 and 2010. James, after joining the Heat, returned the favor with Miami topping Boston in 2011 and 2012. There’s no question who the better player is today, but Pierce has a knack for coming up big at the biggest time of year.
Key matchup II: Wade vs. Joe Johnson. When Wade is good, Miami tends to be great, and Wade says he’s feeling good physically after getting more time off between rounds. Johnson had 13 points in the final 12 minutes of Game 7 at Toronto, and if he gets hot, Miami will certainly have some headaches.
X-factor: Chris Bosh. Miami is 38-12 this season when he scores at least 15 points, 19-14 when he does not.
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