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Nets PG Deron Williams: We Believe That We're Better Than The Heat

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Talk about an early-season treat.

The Brooklyn Nets are hosting the two-time defending-champion Heat on Friday night at Barclays Center in a battle of two of the most talented teams in the Eastern Conference.

Ready for some fireworks?

Expectations are sky-high for the Nets this season, and if they plan to get to the NBA Finals they know they'll most likely have to get through LeBron James and the Heat.

Can Brooklyn play with the champs? Are they even ... gasp ... better than the champs?

"I don't know if we felt we were a better team than the Heat last year," point guard Deron Williams told ESPN. "And so I think in order for us to be able to beat them this year, we have to feel like we are a better team and we can beat them. And I think we do."

Brooklyn is coming off a very disappointing season opener in which it lost to the Cavaliers, 98-94, on Wednesday night in Cleveland. The Heat suffered a significantly more stunning blow on Wednesday as they fell to the 76ers, arguably the worst team in the NBA.

Miami won its season opener against the Bulls on Tuesday in commanding fashion.

"I think it will definitely be a statement game," center Brook Lopez told reporters on Thursday. "It's going to be a great benchmark for us. We absolutely believe we're capable of competing with them and that's something we're going to want to be doing down the line, obviously, in the playoffs. So we're definitely anticipating a high-energy, important game."

The Nets-Heat rivalry should be especially juicy this season following some comments made in the preseason. James called out Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce for leaving Boston after Ray Allen was criticized for bolting the Celtics for Miami.

Garnett's response?

"Tell LeBron to worry about Miami," the power forward said sternly.

But first-year coach Jason Kidd just wants his team to focus on playing had, regardless of who the opponent is.

"They only know one way and that is to play hard, no matter if it is against the Heat or against anybody else," Kidd told ESPN. "No layups. They are going to make you take the ball out or make you shoot two free throws. That is the way we are going to play -- not just Paul and KG, but the rest of the guys on the team."

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