The remaining Brooklyn Nets schedule appears just as daunting as the recent road stretch. However, there are some winnable games on tap.
“It’s a lot of pressure, because our goal is to make the playoffs. We came this far, and if we don’t make the playoffs, it’s definitely a letdown,” Davis told Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “We’re all trying to get there. That’s our goal. If we don’t make it, I know personally I’ll be devastated, and I think 99 percent of the people in this organization feel the same way.”
Brooklyn is certainly cutting it close when it comes to missing the playoffs. The Nets have lost five out of their last seven games; barely riding the tightrope of contention. Brooklyn sits half a game ahead of eighth-place Miami and one game atop of ninth-place Orlando.
That’s not to say that this disappointing stretch was completely unexpected. Thursday’s game in Philadelphia was the grand finale to a road-trip that had spelled doom from the start. Brooklyn was the underdog in each of its last seven games. Not to mention, three of Brooklyn’s opponents rank within the top-seven in net rating over the course of the last month: Utah, LA (Clippers), and Portland. (The Nets, meanwhile, sit at spot number 18).
Glancing ahead at Brooklyn’s remaining schedule, it doesn’t appear that things will get any easier. Although the Nets enjoy the luxury of a three-game homestand next week, Brooklyn hosts a trio of teams with a combined .678 winning percentage: Toronto, Milwaukee, and Boston.
From there, the Nets head back on the road for a brutal back-to-back against the aforementioned Bucks and the grinding Indiana Pacers, both on the road. Yikes.
Brooklyn’s season comes to a close at home in a potential play-in game for the eighth-seed against the Miami Heat. Although it’s tough to project the importance of this game, there’s a very good chance that both teams could be fighting for their playoff lives.
In order to make the playoffs, Brooklyn needs to pull off at least one upset during the next two weeks. Based on how the team has looked lately against above .500 teams, that seems like a tall order.
Fortunately, there’s a silver lining to this story.
In three of Brooklyn’s final six games, its opponent will be on the wrong side of a back-to-back. Yes, finally. The scheduling gods are smiling upon the upstart team from Brooklyn!
The first of these three games occurs this Saturday, as Brooklyn hosts the up-and-down Boston Celtics. Both Boston and Brooklyn have had seasons mired in highs and lows.
The comparison between these two squads should probably end here. In Brooklyn’s case, yo-yoing through the schedule can be attributed to the young team outperforming its expectations (and to some degree, talent).
The Celtics, on the other hand, don’t have a viable excuse for their middling performance. For a team that was expected to win the Eastern Conference, the 2018-2019 season has been vastly disappointing.
On Friday, Boston hosted the Indiana Pacers in an exciting matchup that was likely a first-round series. The Pacers, owners of the league’s third-best defense, made the Celtics work for everything. Even though Boston came out on top, the grueling nature of jostling with Myles Turner and the rest of Indiana’s swarming defense will certainly take a toll on the body of 32-year-old Al Horford—the heart and soul of the Celtics’ defense and, arguably, the off-court leader of this young team—among others.
Playing a potentially worn down Celtics team the very next night is a major advantage for Brooklyn. The 2019 Boston Celtics can be described in many words. Resilliant isn’t one of them. According to TeamRankings.com, in 13 games, Boston is 5-8 in games with no rest period; the 18th-best back-to-back record out of all 30 teams. Opportunity for the upset is certainly lurking.
The second team facing Brooklyn in the second game of a back-to-back is the Milwaukee Bucks. On Sunday, March 31, the Bucks head to Atlanta to play a promising Hawks team. What makes this game so interesting is its start time: Milwaukee and Atlanta tip off at 12:30 p.m. ET. This means that the Bucks could be up painstakingly early in order to get in the necessary shootarounds and workouts.
Brooklyn has its third crack at Milwaukee the very next day. Their previous meetups didn’t exactly go well for the Nets. But this Bucks team is in a much different state. Its star, Giannis Antetokounmpo, recently turned his ankle during Thursday’s game against the LA Clippers. With the MVP race between the Greek Freak and James Harden heating up by the hour, it’s doubtful that Giannis sits the April Fool’s Day game out. Still, though, there’s a chance that he’s playing at 90 percent.
The Bucks will also be without a few role players. Although the team has recovered nicely with Malcolm Brogdon on the mend, they will still miss his presence. Nikola Mirotic will also almost certainly be held out of Monday’s game. A shortened rotation could pose a major problem for the Bucks considering the grueling nature of its schedule.
The final team that faces Brooklyn on a back-to-back is its playoff rival—the Miami Heat. As mentioned before, this meetup could be an elimination game for the ages; the winner makes the playoffs while the loser secures a low-upside, late-lottery pick in a top-heavy draft.
Fortunately for the Nets, the Heat will be forced to play the red-hot Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, April 9. Then, on April 10, Miami heads to Brooklyn in a high-stakes season finale. The Nets should have the leg up.
Brooklyn’s mettle will be assuredly tested in the final six games. If the Nets are the playoff team we think they are, they’ll need to feast on all three of their potentially fatigued opponents.