The Nets schedule came out this week and the road to the playoffs isn’t going to be an easy one. With the Eastern Conference likely to experience more parody thanks to this past offseason, Brooklyn will undoubtedly be battling until the last game of the season to secure their spot among the conference’s elite. Although the coaching staff will be sure to preach taking the season game by game, it doesn’t hurt to take a look at the Nets schedule piece by piece and the games they may have circled on their calendar. October-November The Nets begin their schedule as well as they could hope for, facing 5 out of 6 games against teams likely to end their season without a playoff berth including a match-up to open the season on October 29th versus the Celtics in Boston. Following the season opener, the next game the Nets should have circled is their first home game in Brooklyn against the Oklahoma City Thunder on November 3rd. This is the Nets first real challenge of the season and it should give them a boost being at home for it. While the Thunder may be the first real challenge, Nets fans may say the November 7th game is more important. The 5th game of the season will be a Friday night battle against the rebuilt Knicks and a svelte Carmelo Anthony in Derek Fisher’s first game as part of the cross state rivalry.
After a November 9th game against Magic, the Nets go on another 6 game streak where 5 out of 6 games are against teams that were in the playoffs last season. The Nets may go through some growing pains on this stretch as the team and coach Lionel Hollins acclimate to each other. On November 13th, the Nets travel to face to the Steve Kerr, former Net Shaun Livingston, and the Warriors. After Livingston thrived with Brooklyn last season, expect mixed feelings from many seeing him in another uniform. The one game not against a playoff team may be the game Nets fans look forward to the most this season with Jason Kidd and the Bucks on tap for a November 19th, Wednesday night game in Brooklyn. Kidd will likely receive a lot of boos and a Nets win should go a long way into reducing their spite for Kidd’s departure.
On November 30th, the Nets get a visit from Derrick Rose and the new look Chicago Bulls. Chicago’s given the Nets problems over the past couple of years with their stifling defense and grit. Fans should expect another battle where the matchups of Joakim Noah versus Brook Lopez and Deron Williams versus Derrick Rose will likely determine the winner. December On December 8th, LeBron James and Kevin Love come to town for the first time for a Monday night matchup where Andrei Kirilenko will look to play the role of LeBron stopper and Joe Johnson will have to take advantage of Dion Waiters’ defensive deficiencies. The Nets-Raptors rivalry reignites on December 17th in Toronto where Kyle Lowry will look to prove that he learned from Toronto’s playoff series loss last year. Expect a hard fought game with both teams looking to prove they belong at the top of the division.
January Arguably, the first major game of the 2015 the Nets get the Rockets in Brooklyn on January 12th. For the first time since the Dwightmare, Brook Lopez and Dwight Howard will square off with Lopez looking to prove that he can be just as dominant as the Houston big man. Right after the Rockets, the Nets have Memphis in town for a January 14th game, where new coach Lionel Hollins faces his former team. After Hollins and the Grizzlies parted on less than amicable terms, look for the Nets head coach to have his team fired up for this matchup.
The Nets schedule doesn’t get any easier as the following 2 games are versus John Wall and the Wizards in a back-to-back matchup where Deron Williams will have his surgically repaired ankles tested to the maximum against arguably the Eastern Conference’s best young backcourt. The January 17th game will also mark Paul Pierce’s return to Brooklyn where a mixed reaction to the veteran forward is expected. It also marks the first time since Kevin Garnett was traded to the Celtics where Pierce and the big ticket will be on opposing sides. January-February The end of January begins the same as the beginning of February with 4 out of 7 games against the Clippers and Raptors with the first two games of February being played on February 2nd and 4th in Brooklyn. Chris Paul and the newly minted Steve Ballmer owned Clippers will be a good challenge for the Nets as Deron Williams will have the chance to prove he once again belongs in the same echelon of point guards as Paul. The next part of the Brooklyn’s schedule could be entitled as rivalry week. With the following 4 games from February 6th to February 10th being against the Knicks, Wizards, Bucks, and Grizzlies that week may have the highest amount of emotion among the team. With such high emotion and the team going full throttle, the All-Star Break will be well needed and will come at a time when 8 of their last 12 games were on the road.
February-March After the break, Brooklyn hits the road again beginning on February 20th on the Lakers and ending with the Mavericks and February 28th before returning to Brooklyn for a five game home stretch in March where the upstart Hornets and Lance Stephenson make their first appearance in Brooklyn since Stephenson signed with Charlotte in the offseason. March-April Following the 5 game home stretch, Brooklyn goes on a 12 game stretch where they play 8 teams that will likely fail to make the playoffs next season ending with an April 1st matchup against the Knicks in Manhattan. April Likely to be fighting with the Raptors for the division come April, the Nets get Toronto one last time on April 3rd in Brooklyn for a matchup that could play a huge part in playoff positioning. Four of the next 5 games before the April 15th season finale will be against the Hawks, Bulls, and Wizards, the latter two which could also be jockeying with the Nets in the Eastern Conference for positioning in the Eastern Conference standings. With the Heat and Pacers no longer at the top of the Conference the final month could be more crucial for teams than they’ve been over the past three years.
The Nets season could be determined by their difficult mid-November to mid-December stretch. With a 19 game schedule from November 12th through December 19th including 15 games with likely playoff teams, including 2 matchups with the Spurs, it’s going to be a true test as to whether Brooklyn has a roster capable of competing for a championship. With a record above .500 in those games, the Nets should be able to keep themselves in the top half of the playoff picture.