Nets-Heat Preview

The Associated Press

Fourth-quarter comebacks are becoming routine for the Miami Heat thanks in large part to Ray Allen.

They don't tend to worry about that against the Brooklyn Nets, but that may change.

Allen and the Heat will try to make things easier on themselves Saturday night when they go for a 12th straight win over the Nets, one of the league's hottest teams.

Miami (11-3) owns the best record in the Eastern Conference, but six of those victories have needed four-quarter rallies - and Allen has been instrumental in three.

The latest dramatic ending came Thursday in Miami's 105-100 win that will be remembered more for who was not playing for San Antonio, which sent four starters home before the game to rest due to its congested schedule.

Despite facing a team full of reserves, Allen delivered again - scoring 11 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer with 22.6 seconds left to give the Heat the lead for good.

"It is nothing that we work on," said Allen, who averages 13.4 points after signing with Miami as a free agent from Boston. "It is just playing the game of basketball down the stretch."

The Heat have needed to rally in the final period to win the first three of this four-game homestand, improving to 7-0 at home.

"You can't take that for granted and that's not understated," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Your late-game execution on both ends of the court really matters against quality opponents because you're always going to be dealing with close games. And when you don't build that confidence, that's a tough thing to capture."

Allen's clutch efforts are certainly building Miami's late-game confidence. He's connected on 11 of 22 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, including 5 of 8 in the final three minutes. That includes hitting 3-pointers in the waning seconds for victories over Denver and Cleveland.

The 10-time All-Star guard is also thriving at home, averaging 17.1 points while hitting 59.4 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.

His late-game heroics weren't needed versus Brooklyn (11-4) on Nov. 7, when the Heat won 103-73 at home for their most lopsided win of the season.

Miami has won 11 in a row against the Nets and seven straight at home while holding them to 85.1 points per game and 40.0 percent from the field.

LeBron James is averaging 28.6 points over his last 18 meetings with Brooklyn. He nearly got a triple-double Nov. 7, totaling 20 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in just 30 minutes.

Brooklyn, however, is 10-2 since that loss and enters this meeting on a season high-tying five-game winning streak, during which it's allowing an average of 83.8 points and 26.0 percent shooting from long range.

The Nets kept their streak going Friday, beating Orlando 98-86 in their first game without center and leading scorer Brook Lopez, who will miss this game with a mild right foot sprain. He is averaging 18.5 points and 6.8 rebounds.

Since their main inside presence is unavailable, the Nets may again try to rely on strong perimeter play. They've made 21 of 44 3-pointers over the last two games, with Gerald Wallace converting 5 of 6 for a season-high 20 points against the Magic.

The forward has made 5 of 9 attempts from beyond the arc while averaging 19.7 points over his last three meetings with Miami, but a sprained left ankle forced him to miss last month's matchup.

Joe Johnson was held to nine points on 4 of 14 shooting in that meeting, but he scored 22 Friday.

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