The second of the three, four-game road trips that dominate the final six weeks of the schedule for the Brooklyn Nets tips off on Tuesday night in Los Angeles. The Nets returned from a previous four-game joint just in the early hours last Wednesday, returning from a game in Boston, and went right into the second half of a road/home back-to-back against Memphis.
Just five days later, they took off on Monday for their California swing, which will take them to LA — twice — San Francisco and Sacramento before they fly back next Monday. The trip includes a back-to-back with the Warriors and Clippers on Thursday and Friday.
“Lot of tough teams coming up,” said Joe Harris. “Obviously, it’s one game at a time. All of our focus and preparation will start tomorrow morning at 10 to get ready for the Lakers.”
The trip does have an unexpected twist, with Jacque Vaughn taking over as head coach before last Sunday’s game against Chicago. The Nets will be adjusting to the transition while they tour California.
Let’s take a look at who’s waiting for Brooklyn on the road.
California, here we come pic.twitter.com/el0TJusNnI
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) March 9, 2020
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Tuesday, March 10; 10:30 p.m.
For a team that came out of the box with a 17-2 start, the Lakers may actually be peaking with the Nets due in town on Tuesday. They’ve won 11 of 12 and last weekend beat the two teams most likely in the NBA’s highest tier with them as contenders for the title: the Bucks and Clippers. In the same stretch, they’ve beaten Philadelphia, Boston and Denver. The Western Conference leaders are now 49-13, the league’s second-best record behind Milwaukee.
It was a classic weekend for LeBron James, who had 37 points, eight rebounds and eight assists against Milwaukee on Friday, followed by 28 points, nine assists and seven rebounds against LA. James is actually leading the NBA with 10.6 assists while averaging 25.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. The 35-year-old is back in the conversation for a fifth MVP award with a resurgent season for himself and the Lakers after they missed the playoffs last season in his first year in Los Angeles after eight straight NBA Finals appearances in Miami and Cleveland.
Between James and Anthony Davis, both shooting at least 49 percent on 18-plus shots per game, the Lakers have one of the league’s elite offenses, leading the NBA in field goal percentage (48.5) and ranking third in offensive rating (112.7).
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Thursday, March 12; 10:30 p.m.
It’s been some kind of season in Golden State. The Warriors are 15-49, the league’s worst record, after five straight NBA Finals appearances. They’ve already moved on from D’Angelo Russell, their offseason reinforcement after the loss of Kevin Durant to Brooklyn and Klay Thompson for the season with an ACL injury. Russell’s last game with the Warriors was ironically against the Nets in Brooklyn, a 129-88 loss for the Warriors.
In the Russell trade, the Warriors added Andrew Wiggins from Minnesota. He’s played 11 games for Golden State so far, averaging 19.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists while jumping right into a major role, averaging 33.7 minutes per game. More significantly, Stephen Curry is back. The two-time MVP guard broke his hand in the season’s fourth game — see: Golden State’s 15-49 record — and returned March 5 with 23 points against Toronto. Curry sat out the next game, Saturday against Philadelphia.
BK LA SF LA SAC pic.twitter.com/uNzDy5oWom
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) March 9, 2020
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Friday, March 13; 10:30 p.m.
So in a three-game stretch, the Nets are going to face four-time MVP LeBron James, two-time MVP Steph Curry, and then two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, also a two-time All-NBA First Team selection.
Leonard, of course, picked up that second NBA Finals MVP last season during his one season in Toronto, elevating himself back among the NBA elite after his bizarre lost season in San Antonio in 2018-19. That gave him the clout to push for a big move with him, and the Clippers brought in Paul George along with Leonard on one league-shaking night in July that elevated the Clippers to elite, title-contending status for the 2019-20 season.
Like their Staples Center roommates, the Lakers, the Clippers are in the top five in the NBA in offensive rating, defensive rating, and net rating. They’re second in the Western Conference behind the Lakers with a 43-20 record. This is the first game of the season for the Nets against the Clippers, who will be at Barclays Center on March 25.
Sunday, March 15, 9:00 p.m.
The Kings have had a go-figure kind of season that has them hanging out on the fringe of making a late run for the playoffs, four games out of the Western Conference’s eighth spot with a 28-36 record and 18 games remaining. At 12-14 on Dec. 15, Sacramento went 3-15 over the next month. The Kings have been trying to dig out of that whole ever since, going 13-7 after dropping to 15-29.
De’Aaron Fox had been out of the lineup for a month, with a return that coincided with Sacramento’s December swoon. But since Jan. 24, the third-year guard is averaging 22.2 points and 6.2 assists, shooting 47.6 percent overall. Buddy Hield is making 47.6 percent of his 3-pointers and averaging 19.4 points during the same span, during which the Kings are 10th in the NBA in offensive rating (113.5).
After this game against Sacramento, the Nets will play seven of their next eight at home before closing with five of seven on the road.