Nets face 22 potential playoff opponents in next 24 games – The Denver Post


Is another significant winning streak on the table in Brooklyn? The NBA’s schedule-makers would like to have a word.

If there’s anything the Nets proved through their 12-game winning streak, their 12-1 stretch in the month of December and a 16-1 span leading into Wednesday’s loss to the Chicago Bulls, it’s this.

The Nets are for real when they play hard, and under newly minted Coach of the Month Jacque Vaughn, they play hard more often than not.

Brooklyn’s upcoming stretch, however, will tell us more about the Nets and their championship hopes than they showed while running the table over the last month and a half. It takes more than just playing hard and doing the little things to defeat cream of the crop competition — as the Nets’ lacking record against those foes would indicate.

While the Nets’ schedule was favorable during the run that moved them up to second seed in the Eastern Conference — including a seven-game home stand and games largely against Play-In Tournament hopefuls and injured championship contenders — the schedule-makers weren’t as kind entering the New Year.

The New Orleans Pelicans blew-out the Nets, for example, in the season opener at Barclays Center and are the first team the Nets see after the winning streak ended in Chicago. The Pelicans are severely shorthanded without Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, but CJ McCollum is still a handful offensively, and Herbert Jones has turned himself into a lockdown defender specifically at Kevin Durant’s position.

After the Pelicans, the Nets take a trip to Miami to face the Heat, who have underperformed this season with a 20-19 record but still have the championship pedigree associated with a Pat Riley-run organization. Not to mention almost every professional athlete in the history of pro sports has succumbed at least once to the South Beach scene.

The Nets then return to Barclays Center next Thursday, Jan. 12, to host the No. 1 seeded and defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics. The last time the Nets and Celtics played, Boston snapped Brooklyn’s four-game winning streak, led by as many as 16 and won by 11.

Only after the next three games does the schedule loosen with matchups against the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs.

And then it starts again: Brooklyn plays Phoenix twice, Utah and Golden State once, Philadelphia twice, the Knicks three times, both Los Angeles teams, Chicago two more times, the Heat again, the Hawks, Bucks and Celtics twice.

In total, 22 of Brooklyn’s next 24 opponents have legitimate playoff aspirations and 13 of those opponents would be considered championship contenders.

The Nets have proven they can handle business against lesser opponents, which is a breath of fresh air considering their struggles in that category in past seasons. If they’re going to finally make good on their promise to the borough to be the last team standing at the end of the season, the Nets will have to beat the league’s elite.

This upcoming stretch will determine exactly where the Nets stand — and it will reveal far more about this team than their 16-wins-in-17-games stretch ever could.



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