Nets ‘bond’ as All-Star break approaches
Second-half schedule includes 17 games at Barclays
James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are doubtlessly looking forward to representing Brooklyn at the NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta on March 7.
But it’s what comes after the league’s annual midseason showcase that will mean the most to the Nets’ Big Three and their fans, who finally were allowed to return to Downtown’s Barclays Center Tuesday night for the first time in almost a year.
Though there were only 324 fans permitted in the building for Brooklyn’s season-high seventh straight win, a 127-118 triumph over the Sacramento Kings, there may be more in-person witnesses to what is shaping up as one of the greatest seasons in franchise history following the All-Star break.
If fans continue to follow state- and league-imposed COVID-19 protocols at Barclays, there is an outside chance that restrictions will loosen and capacities will grow in size by the time the Nets return from the break to host Boston March 11.
Though they were still slated to host Orlando here Thursday night and Dallas on Saturday at Barclays before embarking on a two-game road trip ahead of the All-Star hiatus, the Nets (21-12) will still have 35 regular-season games remaining when they come back to Brooklyn.
Seventeen of those contests will be on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush and 20 will be nationally televised by ESPN, TNT, ABC or NBA TV.
Brooklyn will also enjoy four three-game homestands in the second half of its campaign.
But it will also have to endure its second five-game road trip of the year, though the Nets didn’t have much trouble navigating their recent West Coast swing, finishing with a 5-0 mark.
The Nets will kick off the extended sojourn on May 2 at Milwaukee and end it May 11 in Chicago.
Brooklyn will welcome LeBron James and the defending world champion Los Angeles Lakers here on April 10. The Nets beat L.A. at Staples Center on Feb. 18 during their perfect trip.
Regardless of how the schedule shakes out down the stretch, Brooklyn is clearly playing its best basketball of the season, riding a season-high seven-game winning streak into Thursday night’s meeting with the visitiing Magic.
Rookie head coach Steve Nash, who scolded his squad following an embarrassing loss at league-worst Detroit on Feb. 9, hasn’t seen them lose since.
The blistering run pulled Brooklyn within one-half game of Philadelphia for the best record in the Eastern Conference and home-court advantage in the playoffs.
More importantly, it proved that Harden, Durant and Irving could all share the same basketball, not only with each other, but with a supporting cast that is making major contributions every game, including Bruce Brown’s career-high 29-point effort here Tuesday.
Though he’s too modest to take credit for lighting a fire under his team, Nash did weigh in on how the Nets have meshed during the latter part of the first half of the season after struggling to find any semblance of consistency in December, January and part of February.
“We’ve grown, we’ve come together a lot more, and you can just feel the energy amongst players,” Nash said Wednesday.
“The bond is formed,” Nash added. “And that’s something that you have to invest in every day. And that connectivity, like I always say, the guys are investing that energy and support into each other every night. And that makes you tough to beat. So, I think we’ve turned a corner in that respect; we’re getting a little bit better at everything we do.”
Tickets for the second half of the Nets’ season will go on sale to the general public March 1 at 10 a.m.
Single game tickets start at $149 and include COVID-19 testing. Visit www.brooklynnets.com for more information.
The full second half of the Nets’ 2020-21 schedule can be found at brooklynnets.com/schedule.
NOTHING BUT NET: Budding Nets center Nic Claxton, who hadn’t played this year after seeing action in 15 games as a rookie last season before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, finally returned to the hardwood Tuesday against the Kings. Brooklyn’s second-round pick in the 2019 NBA Draft logged 14 minutes and scored five points in his first game since last Feb. 28. Though he was ready to go when the Nets hit training camp, Claxton’s return was delayed by right knee tendinopathy. “I thought he was great,” Nash said of the spindly 6-foot-11 University of Georgia alum. “Not an easy thing to do. Hasn’t played in a basketball game for a year or more, so to have him come out there and be active and look as fluid as he did, that’s not easy, and I thought he really helped us tonight. I think he’s got a really good future. How soon that’ll be come is yet to be seen, but he can make an impact for us and if he can slowly gain experience here and get in the rotation it gives us another player for depth, it gives us a player with length and athleticism, so it’s great to have him back.” … The Nets will meet the Knicks twice in the second half of the season, hosting New York on March 15 and visiting Madison Square Garden on April 5. Brooklyn beat the Knicks at the Garden on Jan. 13.
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