4. Wednesday, March 13: at Oklahoma City Thunder
March looks to be a crucial month for Brooklyn. From March 13 to Mar. 25, the Nets embark on a brutal 7-game road trip. The Nets play visitor against (inhales deeply) Oklahoma City, Utah, the LA Clippers, Sacramento, the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland, and Philadelphia.
If you haven’t noticed already, most of these teams are jousting for playoff spots in the uber-competitive Western Conference. (The other is in fifth place in the East).
Six of Brooklyn’s foes have winning records. The seventh is just a hair under .500 with a 28-29 record and has a man by the name of LeBron James on its roster.
Obviously, getting through this brutal stretch will be one hell of a tall task for Brooklyn. It doesn’t help that the very first game of the bunch is perhaps the toughest of them all.
Oklahoma City has been one of the league’s top teams over the course of the last month. Their 11-2 record since Jan. 19 is tied for the best mark in the league alongside the immortal Milwaukee Bucks.
They’ve also been the NBA’s most potent offense during the stretch, averaging an absurd 122.2 points per game (per NBA.com/stats).
Headlining OKC’s top-rated offense is MVP candidate Paul George. The 28-year-old wing has been immaculate as of late, averaging 32.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 11.1 three-point attempts, 4.2 assists, and 2.4 steals since Jan. 1.
Most impressive of all, he’s done all of this on a 45.7/43.3/83.8 shooting split that would make even the most patronizing stat-nerd smile with glee.
What makes George so special is that his impact isn’t just felt on one half of the court. The Palmdale, Calif., native is also at the front and center of the Defensive Player of the Year conversation.
George isn’t the only player with two-way dominance on this OKC roster. The Thunder features a group of long, fluid athletes who hound opposing offenses into mistakes. Oklahoma City averages the most steals in the NBA at 10.2 per game.
More importantly, their 17.1 forced turnover average ranks No. 1 in the NBA.
This is especially problematic for Brooklyn. The Nets are somewhat careless on offense, coughing the ball up an average of 15.3 times per game; the eighth-most in the league. This will likely be displayed on tenfold against OKC.
When it comes to facing NBA juggernauts, Brooklyn fares much better in offensive shootouts. They’ve posted a 9-12 record against the top-ranked offenses.
Against defensive dynamos like Oklahoma City, however, Brooklyn struggles to get into its offensive sets. Brooklyn is 5-12 versus the 10 best teams in defensive rating.
In general, opponents that feature elite athletes at the wing and forward positions cause the most havoc for Brooklyn. Unfortunately for the Nets, Oklahoma City is one of such teams.
The Thunder feature multiple players who can switch 1-through-4 on its roster. This list of multipositional defenders includes aforementioned George, Patrick Patterson (sometimes), Terrance Ferguson, and Jerami Grant.
Going up against third-place Oklahoma City on their home turf will be a difficult assignment for Brooklyn. The Nets have already faced the Thunder once this season and lost in devastating fashion on a Paul George game-winner.
Oklahoma City has eviscerated Eastern Conference opponents this season with a 16-5 record. Hopefully, Brooklyn can add to the loss column with a shocking victory against the Thunder.