The Nets have come a long way since starting the season with an 8-18 record. There’s been a lot more winning since then and, with that, plenty of extra attention.
But, with more winning comes more expectations. The margin for error becomes slim to none. All eyes are watching for any signs of slippage.
Heading into Monday night, Brooklyn was 20-8 since December 5th. Their winning ways have propelled them into the sixth spot in the NBA Eastern Conference standings. That’s right, the Nets, for right now, are a playoff team.
For right now.
Because the road, as expected, recently became tougher for Brooklyn. They officially have the attention of the NBA, it’s fans, and the media. This includes the best the league currently has to offer.
Monday night, it was the owners of the league’s best record, the Milwaukee Bucks. And it didn’t take long for them to officially welcome the Nets to the other side. The side where you better be at your best if you expect to keep up with the best.
The Nets are not anywhere near their best right now. It’s definitely not the team which started racking up wins just when it looked like their season was buried before New Year’s Day. The roster, as presently built, resembles more of a M.A.S.H. unit than it does a playoff team.
If there’s blood in the water, teams like the Bucks will attack. That’s exactly what happened. They took it to the Nets and left Barclays Center with a 113-94 win.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Greek Freak, scored 30 points and added 15 rebounds with nine assists. The Bucks, now 39-13, did exactly what top teams are supposed to do to their wounded opponents. They annihilated Brooklyn and, at times, showed little to no mercy.
The Nets were 5-of-42 from behind the three-point line. There was no flow to their offense, but there was plenty of missed shots. It was clear they can’t go much longer without the return of some healthy bodies to the rotation.
Brooklyn’s now lost three in a row, they’ve dropped four of their last five games. The All-Star break is still four games away. Then hopefully there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
Caris LeVert and Allen Crabbe are set to ramp up their basketball activities with five-on-five practices, beginning Tuesday. There’s even talk of LeVert possibly playing before the All-Star break. Dinwiddie, out three to six weeks while recovering from thumb surgery, should also pop back on Brooklyn’s radar after shortly after the break.
D’Angelo Russell, who led the Nets with 18 points, is deserving of the All-Star recognition he’s getting. But the Nets know they’ll need help if they’re to maintain their current course for the postseason.
The Nets have played their way onto everyone’s radar now. The expectations have been raised and they now find themselves in a tough stretch with limited options.
Brooklyn had no answer for Antetokounmpno, Monday night. Not many teams around the league do. There was no stopping the Bucks, not when they have one of the league’s best players having his way with anyone guarding him.
All teams fall victim to the occasional losing streak and the Nets were definitely due to hit a wall. Now they must find a way to stop the bleeding before it gets out of hand.
Their injury-depleted roster is being tested like never before. But help is on the way, they just need to hold it together just a little while longer.