With the Nets facing the Memphis Grizzlies last night (Wednesday, March 23) on the road, they have 10 games remaining on their regular season schedule, beginning Saturday versus the Miami Heat on the road.
Six of the games will be at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where the Nets are 16-19. They are better away from home. The Nets were 22-15 before taking on the Grizzlies, who were without superstar guard Ja Morant due to a sore right knee. At 38-34, Brooklyn was in the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference. When NBA games started on Tuesday night, they were two games behind the No. 7 seed Toronto Raptors (40-32), three below the No. 6 seed Cleveland Cavaliers (41-31), only one in front of the No. 9 Charlotte Hornets (37-35) and 2.5 ahead of the No. 10 seed Atlanta Hawks (35-36).
NBA teams usually have a better home record than road record. But because Nets guard Kyrie Irving—who has not taken the COVID-19 vaccine—is still banned from playing games in New York City due to COVID restrictions, his presence in the lineup on the road makes them a much better group.
His part time contributions are needed, especially with forward Ben Simmons still waiting to make his Nets debut as he deals with a herniated disk. Irving continues to remind the basketball world of his prowess; he dropped 50 on the Charlotte Hornets on March 8 in a 132-121 Nets win, then 60 on the Orlando Magic exactly one week later, breaking the franchise scoring record, in a 150-108 victory.
What is remarkable is that Irving did it in just 35 minutes. He was taken out of the game at 8:33 of the fourth quarter by head coach Steve Nash after hitting his 60th point. On the night, Irving, who was averaging 27.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists heading into the game against the Grizzlies, shot 20-31, 8-12 on 3-pointers and 12-13 from the foul line.
“A few shots I probably shouldn’t have taken,” he said afterwards. “Tough ones, with double-teams and triple-teams coming, but as long as I can do it with a smile on my face, and my teammates weren’t too angry with me, it was worthwhile.”
Not having Irving at home means other players have to fill the offensive hole. Kevin Durant will continue to put up big numbers, as he leads the team in scoring at 29.6 prior to facing Memphis. Veteran guards Seth Curry (15.5) and Patty Mills (12.2, 40.9% on threes) can ably provide an offense lift. But the Nets cannot win a championship or even the East with a part-time Irving.
After the Heat, the Nets will host the Hornets on Sunday and the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday at the Barclays.