The Nets’ defensive cohesion will be tested by the league-leading Warriors.
The Nets left home for a six-game road trip during a season in fourth place and came back essentially tied for first. His welcome back to Barclays is the best team in the league, Tuesday’s clash with Golden State.
The Nets put together a 5-1 road trip, though they lost to the only other top team they played for (Chicago). With their offense in progress, they’ll get the toughest test yet against an 11-2 Warriors team that leads the league in Net Rating, Defensive Rating, and of course, record.
“We have to be a defensive loser every night. There’s still a long way to go on both ends of the court, but we’re showing signs of improvement and moving in the right direction, ”said Steve Nash, whose stint as a Warriors consultant paved the way for the Nets work.
“Golden State, they have been ahead of the rest of the league. They are playing great basketball, they found a group that fits very well, has a very strong identity. You can see the positive energy coming out of that group. It will be a great challenge for us ”.
Kevin Durant consecutively won Finals MVP with Golden State and was on his way to a third when his Achilles tendon ruptured in 2019.
Now Durant, who looks like an MVP leader at the start of the season, is downplaying both his pain in his right shoulder and his meeting with Steph Curry & Co., praising them as the best team in the NBA, but saying that talking about Tuesday as a preview of the Finals is premature.
“It’s just another game,” Durant said. “It has been 15 games this season. They’re obviously the best team in the league and they’re playing at an elite level, but it’s a regular-season game.
“Obviously we want to go out there and win in front of our home crowd, but we are not going to put pressure on ourselves and call this a Finals showdown. We are not even looking at it that way. It’s another opportunity for us to build who we are, find out what we want to do, and keep pushing. ”
The Nets have won eight of nine, and at 10-4, they are only percentage points behind Washington. And they have done it without a second from Kyrie Irving. But Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after practice Monday that he is not in the least surprised.
“No, when you have Kevin Durant and James Harden on the same team, that team is going to be good. They are talented and they have a great leader in Steve Nash and a good vibe about their team, “said Kerr.
The Warriors coach also said Durant “looks like the same guy. If I look at a tape from three years ago and watch one, for now, I don’t think I can tell any difference. ”
But while the Nets compete for the best record in the East, the Warriors have the best in the league.
“They are playing extremely well,” Harden said. “We know the stakes as to who we are playing against, and Steph is playing at a high level right now. … So it’s going to be a tough match. ”
Coming back after such a long road trip could be a chore to avoid mental disappointment.
“Obviously being the Warriors and how well they are playing together as a team is another challenge,” said Patty Mills. “Our defense will be tested, our communication will be tested. But it is a great challenge for us to see where we are and where we must go. So I’m looking forward to it.”
Facing Curry, approaching the NBA’s all-time 3-point record, the Nets must continue to build cohesion on defense, learning from each other and where help comes from. And against the Warrior’s defense, they will have to keep trying to play fast and get to their seats early.
“Both ends, honestly, defensively and offensively, we are coming together. And it feels good. It feels more fluid. It feels like it should, ”Harden said. “Honestly, we have a long way to go and we are still building it. But it is only trusted and knowing each other a little more that helps us a lot.”