Dinwiddie aims to continue strong play as Nets host Heat

Kyrie Irving is inching closer to a return from right shoulder impingement. The performances the Brooklyn Nets are receiving from Spencer Dinwiddie are making Irving's absence somewhat bearable.

Irving will sit again Sunday, and the Nets hope to keep getting significant production from Dinwiddie when they host the Miami Heat, who are off to their best start since LeBron James was on the team.

Irving has not played since going 8 for 20 and scoring 17 points in a 101-93 loss at Denver on Nov. 14, two nights after he initially was injured in Utah. The Nets are 6-2 in the eight games Irving has missed, thanks to Dinwiddie.

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Dinwiddie is averaging 20.2 points this season and 24.5 points in Irving's absence. He totaled 32 points on 10-of-19 shooting and added 11 assists Friday when the Nets led most of the way in a 112-107 win over the Boston Celtics.

"He's more confident," Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said of Dinwiddie, who signed a contract extension with the team last Dec. 8.

"I always felt like with Spence, in the past, he didn't know how good he was. You'd be surprised, as talented as he is, his confidence is growing. The kind of scenarios he's in with running the team, I think that's giving him more confidence. He's playing as good as anybody in the NBA right now."

Dinwiddie's best game came on a day in which Atkinson said Irving has begun work on the court and would miss at least one more before possibly being ready to return.

Dinwiddie's performance occurred in Brooklyn's first victory against a winning team in Irving's absence.

Miami enters off to a 13-5 start. It is Miami's best start since 2013-14 when James played his final season with the team and the rivalry with the Nets involved Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in Brooklyn.

The Heat are 8-0 at home and 5-5 on the road heading into a three-game trip in which they face Brooklyn, Boston and Toronto after losing to Houston and Philadelphia in their previous two road contests.

"We're still .500 on the road," Miami guard Goran Dragic said. "We feel like the last few games, especially against playoff opponents, we need to do a better job. This road trip is going to be a really good test for us. We need to bring our A-game. It's going to be good for us to see where we're at."

Miami has split its past four games since winning five straight by an average of 13.4 points from Nov. 12-22. The Heat topped 120 points for the sixth time this season Friday when they shot 53.7 percent from the floor and made 13 of 25 3-pointers in a 122-105 win over the Golden State Warriors.

Dragic led six players in double figures with 20 and a reserve unit that totaled 70 points while young players Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro combined for 10 3-pointers. Jimmy Butler added 16 points and is shooting 37.1 percent (13 of 35) in his past three games.

The Nets are 5-2 in their last seven meetings with Miami. The teams are facing each other for the first time since Dwyane Wade ended his storied career by getting a triple-double in Miami's 113-94 loss in Brooklyn on April 10.

--Field Level Media

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