The Brooklyn Nets are going to be tested in the early moments of the 2019-20 campaign and it’ll be a much-needed stretch.
Hell hath no fury like the tumultuous days of August for basketball purists. Predictions on how the upcoming season begin to fade, the lack of overall content starts to take a toll. But then something incredible occurs: the NBA officially releases its schedule and fanbases across the league begin to map out how their respective team might land in the NBA’s hierarchy.
So let’s do just that by focusing on the importance of maintaining face through a Brooklyn Nets early five-game road trip.
Ensuring that you set the tone early for the duration of an 82-game season is imperative for any organization. It’s a task that usually easier said than done, and an 8-18 start in the 2018/19 season for this team can attest to that.
As aforementioned, in the opening weeks of the 2019-20 season, they’re going to be faced with a tough five-game road trip, with three games coming against the Western Conference’s elite: Denver, Portland and Utah.
This was a team that traveled relatively well a season ago, winning 19 of their 42 games on the road. But that was last season and the expectations have altered; they’re going to have to prove that they win compete at a high level away from Barclays this year.
The road-trip starts off at the Moda Center, with Portland hosting the new-look Nets on Nov. 8. The Trailblazers—behind franchise cornerstones Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum—are fresh off their deepest playoff run since the dawn of the millennium.
They’re amongst the premier teams out west and the backcourt matchup obviously brings about much intrigue and seeing how Jarrett Allen fends off one of the more physical bigs in Hassan Whiteside on the glass will be telling.
From there, they head down to Phoenix for a contest slated for Nov. 10. Though the Suns don’t represent an adversary of Portland’s magnitude, there are no nights off in the NBA. Kyrie Irving knows this all too well, as he had to pull off a herculean effort a season ago in Phoenix, bringing the Celtics all the way back from 22 down to pull off the comeback in OT.
The west coast swing concludes with trips to Utah and Denver, on November 12 and 14 respectively. That’s four games in the span of six nights and the latter of the trip is rather daunting.
Utah, much like Brooklyn, enters this upcoming season with a much different rotation than what they had a year prior. Mike Conley joins a roster seemingly on the rise alongside familiar faces in Bojan Bogdanovic and Ed Davis.
Utah was great at home during the 2018/19 campaign, winning 29 of their 41 games in Salt Lake City. Now they bolster a roster that has made some major upgrades, in a loaded Western Conference they’re amongst the teams that could do some significant damage.
Containing Donovan Mitchell will be the key to victory, who averaged 26.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in his two games against Brooklyn a season ago.
Denver is looking to build off their most successful season since the Carmelo Anthony era, they have plenty of depth and were stellar at home last season, going 34-7. Gary Harris is likely to be matched against Irving, with Torrey Craig taking responsibilities in stopping the 27-year-old as well.
Then there’s the matchup down low, with Jarrett Allen facing off against a potential dark-horse MVP candidate in Nikola Jokic. Allen stepped up to the plate last year in their lone trip to Denver; here’s hoping history repeats itself.
Not just that, but Irving and Denver’s emerging star, Jamal Murray, have some history together. Last year, when the Celtics and Nuggets met in Denver, Murray attempted a last-second field goal with the game clearly out of reach. He had 48 points in the dying moments of regulation and wanted to surpass the 50-point barrier.
Irving took exception to Murray breaking an unwritten rule by throwing his rebounded miss a “mile-high” into the rafters. This will be Irving’s first trip to Denver since the incident, and though he represents a new organization, he likely won’t forget what took place a season ago. This matchup could get dicey if either team builds a significant lead.
Kyrie Irving chucked the ball deep into the crowd in response to Jamal Murray taking a final shot at the buzzer. 😳
(🎥 @NBCSCeltics) pic.twitter.com/Mx9cL9aZZ5
— theScore (@theScore) November 6, 2018
The final game of the five-game road trip is in Chicago on Nov. 16. Again, this is a very winnable game for the Nets, much like the contest four days before this in Phoenix; but, if they decide to take the night off, the game could very well result in an addition to the loss column.
Chicago is improving. They’re not quite a darkhorse playoff seed yet, but they likely won’t be the same lackluster that won 22 games in 2018-19—which included a horrific 9-32 record in their own backyard.
Simply put: this is one of those games you can’t afford to lose, as it can come back to bite you in April with seeding implications on the line. Brooklyn has to conclude this road-trip strong. They can’t get ahead of themselves by looking forward to the three-game homestand that follows this matchup.
If the Nets want to be amongst the higher seeds in their conference come next spring, they have to be respectable on the road. This early challenge that presents itself to the Brooklyn Nets in November can set the tone. Let’s see if it in fact does.