Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets head to South Beach to take on a Miami Heat team that has lost three straight and are struggling to recapture the form that led them to last season’s NBA Finals.
The Heat are losing and their team leader isn’t happy.
Jimmy Butler labelled the reigning Eastern Conference champions as “soft” after a shock defeat in Minnesota on Friday night, Miami’s third straight defeat and one that dropped the Heat to 28-28 with 16 games left in the regular season.
Minnesota entered the game with the worst record in the entire league but managed to give Miami their 10th loss in the past 16 games.
“It’s not frustrating because we do it so often,” Butler said, having put up 30 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists on the night.
“It’s almost like it’s expected, in a bad way to put it. We just think we’re such a good team, and then reality hits us, we’re humbled. And I’m glad because that’s what this game does for you.
“Home, away, no matter what opponent you’re playing against, you just stroll into the game thinking you’re nice, you’re good, this is what happens.
“I’m glad it happened to us,” he added. “And if we don’t fix it, I hope it continues to happen to us. We’re just being soft. That’s it. Not getting into bodies, scared of some contact. Soft overall.”
Despite the patchy run of form, former Heat legend Tim Hardaway Sr. is backing them to win on Sunday, although he believes the lack of rest between their storybook run to the finals in the bubble last year, to this frenetic regular season, may explain some of the struggles they’ve been having.
For the Nets? Hardaway states it’s as simple as staying healthy.
The basketball world was shocked earlier this week by the news of LaMarcus Aldridge’s immediate retirement due to an irregular heartbeat.
Whilst the loss of the seven-time All-Star – acquired as a free agent after being bought out by the San Antonio Spurs in March – was no doubt a blow to the franchise, they still have arguably the most talented roster in the league.
Live NBA: Brooklyn @ Miami 18.04
Sunday 18th April 8:30pm
2018 MVP James Harden remains out having missed five consecutive games with a right hamstring strain but is believed to be nearing a return to action soon.
In his place, the Nets have been boosted by the timely recovery of Kevin Durant, who scored 25 points and dished 11 assists during Brooklyn’s 130 – 115 rout of the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday night.
Sharpshooting swingman Joe Harris, who poured in 26 points himself, said after the game “When we share the ball, we’re tough to beat.”
“We got a lot of catch-and-shoot threes tonight. When the threes go in for us, it opens up a lot of other options.”
Sunday night’s game is an important one for both franchises as the Nets seek to reclaim the top seed in the East from the Philadelphia 76ers, who they lost to on Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, the reigning Eastern Conference champions Heat have slipped to seventh place – which would put them in the play-in tournament for the final two playoff spots – and one and a half games behind the New York Knicks.
Join us live on the Sky Sports YouTube channel or on Sky Sports Arena from 8.30pm on Sunday – this isn’t one to miss!