The NBA released its full 2018-19 schedule, and the Nets are going to pay for a soft middle of the slate with a brutal end to the season.
The Nets tip off Oct. 17 in Detroit, and will play host to the rival Knicks two days later in their home opener at Barclays Center. A team that struggled to a horrid 69-177 record the past three campaigns — but expects to match or even exceed last season’s eight-game win improvement — actually has a reasonable opportunity to keep its head above water in the early part of the season.The latter part is where the pain and the losses will mount.
From Nov. 23 against Minnesota through Dec. 18 against LeBron James and the Lakers, the Nets will play 10 of their 13 games at home. And even their three away from Barclays Center aren’t even long enough to necessitate flying: Dec. 1 at Washington, Dec. 8 at the Knicks and four days later in Philadelphia.
Even after a tilt at Chicago on Dec. 19, they come back to play host to Indiana, Phoenix and Charlotte, giving them 13 home games out of 17. But they will pay dearly with a stretch run that could easily test their resolve about being averse to tanking.
Despite the end of the once-feared Circus Trip with Ringling Bros. shutting down last year, the Nets still play a season-high nine road games in March.
They have a season-long seven-game road trip from March 13 at Oklahoma City through March 28 at Philadelphia. They return home with just six games left in the season, with all of those against teams that made the playoffs last season, including the Raptors and Celtics. In all, they close with 10 of their final 13 against 2017-18 playoff clubs, and they have nine of their final 13 on the road.
The Nets’ eight-game improvement last season was the second-most in the Eastern Conference, and both general manager Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson have talked about making another jump, and the team’s refusal to tank. But a poor record going into the February trade deadline, coupled with that tough slate looming the next month, may put those convictions to the test.
Games to watch
Oct. 19 vs. Knicks: They play their rivals in their home opener and again at the Garden on Oct. 29, two early shots at redemption after getting swept in four games last season.
“We know we’re competing with them,” Atkinson said. “They’re in the same town as us. We welcome that. We look forward to doing better against them than we did last year. We struggled against them last year.”
Dec. 18 vs. Lakers: New York’s first look at the King James Lakers won’t be against the Knicks, but against the Nets at Barclays Center. D’Angelo Russell looking for his first Nets win against Lakers boss Magic Johnson and the team that traded him adds a little flavor.
Feb. 13 at Cavaliers: The Lakers got 36 national TV games, the Warriors 34 and six teams got 31 or more. The Nets — after two years with none — tied for an NBA-low with just one: against the LeBron-less Cavs on ESPN.
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