Nets look to complete Mexico City sweep
The Brooklyn Nets successfully overcame the altitude of Mexico City to pull off their biggest comeback of the season.
On Saturday, the Nets attempt to make it three straight wins when they face the Miami Heat in the Global Games at Mexico City’s 23,000-seat Mexico City Arena.
The Nets are 4-2 in regular-season games played outside the United States and Canada. They lost twice to Orlando in Tokyo in Nov. 1996 but swept games from Toronto in March 2011 in London and beat the Atlanta Hawks in London in Jan. 2014.
Brooklyn is 4-2 in its last six games overall after rallying from a 16-point deficit in a 100-95 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday. The Nets held the Thunder to 38.8 percent shooting after limiting Atlanta to 36.6 percent.
Those showings marked the first time since Jan. 5-7, 2014 that Brooklyn held opponents under 40 percent in consecutive games. It also marked the first time the Nets held opponents under 100 points in consecutive games since March 21-23.
If the Nets can hold the Heat under 100 points, it would mark the first time they produced three straight games of holding an opponent under the century mark since Nov. 28-Dec. 1, 2015.
The Nets are also seeking their second three-game winning streak since the start of the 2015-16 season. Brooklyn also won three straight from April 1-4, but those games took place at Barclays Center, which is not 7,382 feet above sea level.
Last year the Nets did not get their 10th win until winning at Sacramento on March 1. That win ended a 1-27 stretch but starting with that game, the Nets are 21-27 in their last 48 contests.
“I feel that every game we are getting more comfortable within the roster,” Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said. “We are in a good place a little over a year into this.”
Besides overcoming the deficit and elevation, the Nets overcame foul trouble to starting point guard Spencer Dinwiddie. Dinwiddie was limited to 19 minutes because he accumulated five fouls but Caris LeVert turned in his second straight strong game as the backup point guard.
LeVert produced his first career double-double with 21 points and 10 assists on the one-year anniversary of his NBA debut. He grabbed five rebounds, didn’t commit a turnover and in his last two games, LeVert has scored 38 points on 13-of-23 shooting while handing out 16 assists.
“Unfortunately, Spencer had foul trouble, so I just tried to make plays for the team,” LeVert said.
The Nets played with 10 available players Thursday because they traded forward Trevor Booker to Philadelphia for post player Jahlil Okafor and guard Nik Stauskas and also waived guard Sean Kilpatrick. The new acquisitions will not be available Saturday, but the Nets will have 11 available players after recalling guard Isaiah Whitehead from the G League.
Miami is playing its first regular-season game outside the United States and Canada.
Miami enters its trip to Mexico City with four losses in their last five games following a three-game winning streak Nov. 22-26 and an awareness of how the Nets are improving.
“They played really well (Thursday) night,” Heat center Kelly Olynyk said. “They play really hard. They’re a well-coached team. They execute. They play tough on both ends of the floor. Obviously, they’ll have played a game up here. We just need to come out and play our game and hopefully take care of the business.”
During the last five games, the Heat are allowing 112.6 points on 53.2 percent shooting to go along with a 115.2 defensive rating. Conversely, the Heat, are averaging 97.6 points on 44.9 percent shooting though Miami’s offensive numbers are inflated by Wednesday’s 117-105 loss at San Antonio when it shot a season-best best 54.2 percent and a season-best 52.9 percent from 3-point range.
Miami has allowed at least 100 points in 14 games so far and in five straight games. It is the first time the Heat allowed over 100 points in at least five straight games since Dec. 6-12, 2016 and if happens again Saturday it would be the first time they allowed triple digits in six straight games since Dec. 1-13, 2009.
While Miami is hoping to improve its defense against one the league’s fastest teams in terms of pace, they are also hoping Tyler Johnson can replicate his showing from Wednesday’s game. Johnson scored a season-high 25 points on 9-of-12 shooting and is averaging 15.8 points on 57.5 percent shooting in his last four games.
The Heat also will be without Hassan Whiteside (left knee bone bruise) and have used four starting lineups in the nine games without the center. On Wednesday, Olynyk started at center, James Johnson started at power forward and both are listed as the probable starters, but that could change.
“When you lose a player like Hassan, who impacts so many different things on both sides of the floor, you do have to consider matchups,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Your team isn’t the normal group. So, we’ll continue to evaluate whoever we think gives us the best chance for Saturday night, that’s who we’ll go with.”
Miami has won the last five meetings with the Nets. Last season, the Heat rallied from double-digit deficits to win all three meetings.