Brooklyn ... gone in a completely different direction

Vincent Davis | 3/2/2017, 1:47 p.m.

When Brooklyn played the Warriors Saturday night, both teams began the game having played exactly 57 games since the start of the 2016-17 NBA season. The difference is the Brooklyn Nets had only won nine of their games, whereas the Golden State Warriors had won 48 of theirs. 

Brooklyn and Golden State are complete opposites. Golden State leads the Western Conference in their effort to reach the Western Conference Finals and the NBA Finals for the third year in a row. They’re rock stars and role models. They’re overachievers, the gold standard of the association. Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant (although now injured) are an all-star cast that adorns their bench.

Golden State not only leads the conference out west, but also leads the league, including the Cleveland Cavaliers, the defending NBA champions, which feature LeBron James, a rock star baller himself whose team is also trying to preserve a place in the league’s final season series in May and June.

Cleveland defeated the Warriors in last year’s championship, bringing the first NBA trophy to this Ohio franchise, and the first professional trophy to Cleveland since the Cleveland Browns won the NFL championship in 1964.

Both the Cavaliers and Warriors, the championship contenders the past two years, look down from way up high on the Nets, last in their conference and last in the league. Since the final third of the season began a week ago, Brooklyn, who played the Sacramento Kings last night (Wednesday), has begun the last third as they ended the second, extending their 14-game losing streak to 16, 23 road losses in a row. Maybe they can somehow take advantage of the new president’s travel band. 

They play a back to back tomorrow, Friday and Saturday, more road games, first the Utah Jazz, and then the Portland Trailblazers. Brooklyn then travels to Memphis to play the Grizzlies Monday and the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday. They don’t return home until March 16.

Even though they’ve clinched a playoff position, the Warriors have the more difficult road to the final two series. They’ll have to go through the San Antonio Spurs, who are the second seed in the west and the second-best basketball team in the league. They have a better record than the Cavs and are currently pressing Golden State for the best record. If the Western Conference Finals come down to the Warriors versus Spurs, look for a hard fought seven-game series, a dog fight that will be as competitive and gritty as the east versus west championship.

Leveling the playing field, completely complexing matters, but making the final weeks of the regular season most interesting, is the injury to Durant incurred at the start of Tuesday night’s game against the Washington Wizards in D.C., diagnosed as a grade 2 medial collateral ligament sprain and bruised bones. “You never know how bad it’s going to be, so we’ll just wait and see,” said Steve Kerr, the Warriors head coach. “Keep our fingers crossed.” 

The Warriors immediately signed veteran Matt Barnes to replace Durant, who’s expected to return right before the playoffs begin in six weeks. Barnes was waived by the Sacramento Kings last week to make roster adjustments for the DeMarcus Cousins trade.