Previewing the Nets’ Upcoming West Coast Trip


After a tough loss to Minnesota on Wednesday, the Nets were able to bounce back this past weekend with a pair of home wins against Eastern Conference opponents. Friday night, the Nets trounced the Knicks, scoring 110 points on 58.3% shooting from beyond the arc. Sunday, they won a hotly contested matchup against Orlando after each team traded leads in the second half. It was a sloppy victory and a few Nets were eager to voice their displeasure with how close the game was.

In his post game interview, Joe Johnson was quick to say “We get to a point to where we get a bit complacent, the ball stops moving, guys get a little selfish and it makes it hard because now it hurt us defensively. Shouldn’t even come down to the last three, four minutes of a game to where it’s a tight game, Coach has to make a decision to put me at the ‘four.’ It should’ve never got to that.” Johnson continued to voice his frustration at practice on Tuesday as he stated that the team hadn’t played anyone yet.

It would appear that the Nets’ record sat at 2-4 after those critical statements from their All-Star shooting guard. Maybe they were an extra source of motivation for the team or was a reason for fans to express a sense of concern? Johnson remains one of the veteran leaders for Brooklyn but it is a rarity for him to speak extensively to the media. Saying that he doesn’t feel that the team has each other’s backs can’t be anything but negative. Here’s to hoping this somber tone will be lifted once they return to Barclays Center next week.

The process was not ideal yet the result remains intact and the Nets have jumped out to a 4-2 start to their 2014 season.  Brooklyn will look to clean up the sloppy play in the upcoming weeks. First, they’ll pack it up and head out to the west coast to square against three of the best teams in the Western Conference in Phoenix, Golden State and Portland.

“We get to a point to where we get a bit complacent, the ball stops moving, guys get a little selfish and it makes it hard because now it hurt us defensively.” – Joe Johnson after Sunday’s win

Each of the Nets’ opponents this week are off to strong starts in the young season and will be prepared to answer the bell when Brooklyn comes to town. Last season, the Nets stood out amongst their Eastern Conference contemporaries in terms of winning on the road against the West. Despite the fact they were 16-25 last season on the road, Brooklyn won 7 out of 15 road games against Western Conference opponents. Altogether, they were an astounding 18-12 against the entire conference which is what set them apart the rest of the East.

In the early portion of the schedule, it is critical to avoid a winless road trip to sink below .500 after a successful first two weeks. They have a back-to-back scheduled against an upstart Phoenix squad and Golden State, arguably playing the best basketball in the league at this current juncture. Backcourts consisting of Goran Dragic/Eric Bledsoe & Stephen Curry/Klay Thompson respectively will provide Joe Johnson and Deron Williams with their toughest assignments so far in 2014-15. Each team has the ability to score triple digits on a nightly basis, ranking in the Top-10 in points per game and pace factor.

Two nights later, they’ll travel further up the west coast to the city of Portland, to take on a Blazers team that is already turning heads with their well-rounded offensive attack complemented by stingy defense. Brook Lopez will look to re-establish his dominance as a post-presence against his twin brother, Robin Lopez, who is having a breakout year thus far. It is no surprise that these teams will look to play up-tempo the entire night, attempting to wear down one of the oldest teams in the league.

The real “surprise” has been the influx of scoring from the Brooklyn Nets. Although we’re only six games in, the Nets are sixth in the league in scoring whilst ranking second behind Golden State and Dallas in terms of Effective Field Goal Percentage and Offensive Efficiency, respectively. We’ve seen the team’s ability to shoot the ball on full display on Friday night, draining 14 threes while shooting over 50% from the field for the entire ballgame. The Nets might not play as up-tempo as Phoenix and Golden State, they are extremely efficient on offense, creating open shots for their bevy of shooters to remain productive.

Ball security will be another important factor as both Portland and Golden State ranking amongst the leaders in defensive efficiency, use their size and athleticism to alter shots and creating havoc in the passing lanes. In order to be successful, Brooklyn must continue their strong shooting in addition to making the most of each offensive possession. This includes the bench, which has been another pleasant surprise for Coach Lionel Hollins in the early part of the year.

Typically using a 9 or 10 man rotation on most nights, he has relied on his key reserves to pick up the slack when summoned. Mirza Teletovic has been the largest bright spot, currently 10th in the league in bench scoring. Phoenix on the other hand, boast two viable candidates for sixth-men of the year in Gerald Green and Isaiah Thomas, averaging 13.3 PPG and 16.9 PPG respectively. The Nets’ bench will have their hands full with a deep and athletic Phoenix squad Wednesday night.

It’s fair to say that the Nets will be drained from their week against a loaded trio of Western conference teams but a winning record on the trip will provide Brooklyn with supreme confidence going forward in 2014-15. Both Portland and Golden State’s home arenas provide for some of the toughest places to play as a road team, so expect a loud, playoff atmosphere each night.This is a much-needed test for a squad exceeding expectations so far. Of course, in order to play in late April and May, they must compete and win in pivotal stretches like these.