When: 7 p.m. EST
Where: Spectrum Center
Watch: YES Network, Fox Sports GO
Listen: 101.9 FM, 660 AM
Moral victory after moral victory. The Nets continue to push their competition to the brink – but often fall short. That was the case on Tuesday night (and into Wednesday morning) as the Nets nearly made a big comeback against the Golden State Warriors. Severely outmatched, Brooklyn was able to bounce back from a 25-0 first quarter run. Unfortunately, the Nets couldn’t complete the comeback (sound familiar?). They lost the game, 114-101, but it was another promising sign, despite Brooklyn’s far from impressive record.
On Thursday night, the Nets will return to the Eastern time zone (thankfully) to face the Charlotte Hornets. Continuing their road trip, it will be a rematch from two weeks ago. The Nets lost their Feb. 22 contest, 111-96. It will be the final game in the Nets’ five-game road trip. They’re looking for a win, they’re craving a win, but Charlotte could make it a no-win road trip for Brooklyn.
Here are three things to look for in Nets vs. Hornets!
The Core Four
Jarrett Allen, D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Those four players dominated the second quarter for the Nets against the Warriors. The four young Nets (all still under rookie contracts) showed what the combination is capable of at full power. Allen provides explosiveness down low. Hollis-Jefferson can change the pace with his herky-jerkiness and energy on both ends. LeVert can accelerate like a rocket in the open floor. Russell can control the offense with his slickness. The lineup was chaotic, causing turnovers and providing enough versatility to give the Warriors trouble.
The Nets’ lineup of the future could be here now. Against the Hornets, Brooklyn will need to keep attacking – on both ends. The Nets could thrive with controlled chaos, scrambling Charlotte’s defense and acting like a thorn in the Hornets’ sides. A lineup of Allen, Russell, LeVert and Hollis-Jefferson could be what the Nets need to finally secure a road victory.
Containing Kemba and Dwight
Let’s rewind to the Nets’ matchup against the Hornets two weeks ago. Dwight Howard pulled down 24 rebounds in the game, while the Nets’ starting five combined for 22. Brooklyn’s issues with bigs have plagued them all season, and it was particularly evident against a wide body like Howard. While the Nets have done a decent job at fighting for rebounds together, it may only take one big man to give Kenny Atkinson’s squad a headache. Allen will need to try his best to at least deter Howard on the glass.
Kemba Walker was the closer for Charlotte two weeks ago. Walker scored 14 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter, with neither Spencer Dinwiddie nor Russell able to stop the New York native. Walker continues to be one of the most underrated point guards in the league, able to take over games on a whim. Admittedly, the Hornets don’t have many offensive weapons outside of their lead guard. Containing Walker (and to a lesser extent Howard) could spell success for the Nets on Thursday night.
Fighting Out of the Basement
At 20-45, the Nets are tied with the Atlanta Hawks for the worst record in the Eastern Conference. They’re also in a tie with the Hawks and Mavericks for third-worst team in the league. It’s not a good look for the Nets, who have gone 1-9 in their last 10 games. The Nets may not be competing for a playoff spot, but they’re trying to play for respect.
Moral victories are nice, but improving a record is better. Brooklyn has 17 games left. Nine of their future opponents are teams over .500. The Nets are looking to avoid their third straight season of fewer than 21 wins — 30 wins was the goal previously, but 25 seems to be more realistic. Still, we’re waiting for the Nets to put it together and turn heartbreaking losses into thrilling victories. The Nets will have a chance against an underachieving Hornets team. Is it time for a turnaround? Brooklyn hopes so.