Nets fans couldn’t have written a better three-game stretch than this.
Brooklyn’s win over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday was the third straight for a team looking for chemistry and continuity during its late-season playoff bid.
The winning streak includes a 28-point comeback over the No. 2 seed Boston Celtics and a convincing win over the same Charlotte Hornets team that ended the Knicks’ nine-game winning streak without star guard LaMelo Ball.
And now for a dose of reality: The Houston Rockets have the worst record in all of basketball and are the first team to reach 50 losses this season. They will be the worst team in the NBA for the third straight season if they finish the year at their current pace.
The Hornets might as well be in the same boat without Ball. His win over the Knicks was his first since the star guard suffered a season-ending ankle injury. The Nets easily disposed of the Hornets and held them under 90 points.
There’s no question that the win over the Celtics was convincing, even if Boston took its foot off the gas in the first half.
Can the Nets recreate that success for the remaining four games on their road trip?
It will not be easy.
That’s because Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks are next, and Antetokounmpo just upset the Nets with 33 points and 15 rebounds in the Bucks’ double-digit win at Barclays Center on Feb. 28.
The Nets have certainly begun to find their identity on both ends of the floor, but it takes more than self-realization to stop Antetokounmpo, who may be the league’s most valuable player, even if voters are tired. to vote in his favour.
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The Nets then travel to Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves, who are quietly climbing up the Western Conference standings and are just a half-game behind the Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors for the fifth and sixth seeds isolating a team. of having to participate in the Sudden Death Play-In Tournament.
The Timberwolves, however, have largely been a one-man show with Karl-Anthony Towns now sidelined 100 days with a serious calf injury. The Nets, however, will be playing in the second straight game, and Anthony Edwards, who is averaging 25 points, six rebounds and five assists per game, is a handful at all three levels offensively.
The Nets round out their road trip with a test: traveling to Denver for a high-altitude play against presumed three-time MVP Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets possess the best record in the Western Conference and are favorites to emerge as title contenders.
The Nets end their road trip in Oklahoma City, facing off with star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is averaging 31.7 points per game as one of the NBA’s future promising faces.
Meanwhile, the Nets are competing with other teams in the Eastern Conference for playoff position. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Nets and Knicks were tied in the loss column, with the Knicks owning two more wins on the season. The Nets sit sixth in the East and are 2.5 games ahead of the seventh-seeded Miami Heat. They’re five games ahead of the eighth seed, meaning it would take a five-game losing streak, plus a five-game winning streak by the Atlanta Hawks, for the Nets to risk dropping to eighth.
A losing streak is not ruled out. The Nets have the ninth strongest remaining schedule in all of basketball and must play several legitimate title contenders in the 17 games remaining in the regular season.
If they’ve shown anything all season, though, it’s that Brooklyn has something of a backbone. The Nets won’t go down without a fight, and that should be enough to clinch a playoff spot this season, though the idea of a championship in Brooklyn has long since left the district.