Tonight, the Brooklyn Nets take on the Cleveland Cavaliers in Cleveland. While that match-up alone probably doesn’t even make the most hardcore of Brooklyn fans salivate, there is one historic reason to watch this game: If the Nets can pull off a victory without Joe Johnson and possibly Gerald Wallace, then they will guarantee a road record above .500 for the first time in the franchise’s history.
This isn’t a pithy attempt to revive the gone-but-not-forgotten memory of the greatest Twitter account in sports, but the real deal tonight for Brooklyn. As long as the franchise has existed in the NBA, the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets have never had a road record above .500. Even the Nets teams that went to the NBA Finals in back-to-back years went 19-22 during the 2001-2002 season, and fared worse at 16-25 on the road the following year.
As New Jersey Nets fans recall, things fell apart quickly. They would trade Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson and Kenyon Martin and ended up with Yi Jianlian, Devin Harris and Courtney Lee; they drafted many players with the last name Williams, and struggled to reach .500, period.
The Nets clinched a playoff spot for the first time since the 2005-2006 season and now aim for the road record. The game against the Cavaliers is particularly intriguing because both teams have been without Joe Johnson and Kyrie Irving, respectively. Irving played March 31st against New Orleans, missed the April 1st showdown versus Atlanta, and is expected to play tonight. Johnson has missed the last four for Brooklyn, moving to a 2-2 record in that time—beating the lowly Blazers and Suns and getting smoked by two playoff teams in Utah and Denver.
If Johnson and Wallace both miss tonight’s game, it could mean extra playing time for Tornike Shengelia and potentially a first look at their latest signing and Boston Celtic castaway: Kris Joseph. Even if the Nets lose tonight, they would have three more chances to win on the road, but against Boston, Indiana and Toronto, tonight is their best opportunity to lock up an important piece of franchise history.