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Nets Notes: Brooklyn Tips Off Playoff Week Practices

Nets return to practice waiting for Saturday's Game 1 opponent

The Brooklyn Nets began playoff week on Tuesday with little choice but to keep the focus inward.

They took Monday off after locking up the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed with Sunday’s win over Cleveland, finishing 48-24 for a franchise record .667 winning percentage. That left them waiting for Tuesday night’s game between seventh-place Boston and eighth-place Washington in the NBA’s new play-in tournament to see who their first-round opponent was.

Nets head coach Steve Nash said he’d keep an eye on that game but without too much invested in the outcome — eventually a 118-100 Boston win — describing both the Celtics and Wizards as “very capable, dangerous teams.” They also began the day unsure whether Game 1 would be on Saturday or Sunday, so they set up a practice plan for the week anticipating a Saturday start.

“Today we went over all our stuff,” said Nash. “Things to clean up defensively and things to clean up offensively. Tomorrow we will probably get a little more live action so the guys can get some rhythm and continue to stay sharp and stay in shape. Probably another live practice Thursday and we’ll incorporate the scouting report and game plan between Wednesday and Friday. For us, it made sense to worry about ourselves today until we know who we are playing.”

“The energy's high. Energy's high,” said forward Jeff Green. “I think we're all excited to have everyone healthy, for one. We're excited about the playoffs. And to your point about not knowing who to play, you know I think we used today as a time to get together build the chemistry, understanding different lineups and what we're trying to accomplish. Tonight we'll watch and tomorrow we'll focus on, I can't give you a schedule, but probably half on us, half on what the other team is doing. This is a long week so we have a lot of time to prepare. But with everybody getting healthy I think it's about us trying to get on the same page, focus on things we can accomplish with the different lineups we have and go from there.”

After a season in which the Nets navigated roster changes and injuries, with continuity hard to come by, signs were pointing to the positive as they began their playoff preparation. James Harden got two games in last week before being held out of the finale, having missed a month with a hamstring strain.

Joe Harris missed the final three games, first with hip soreness and then a gluteal strain, after having played in Brooklyn’s first 69 games of the season, the only Net to do so. Nash said he expected Harris to be ready for Game 1 with a practice plan for the week still to be determined, though he took part in what Nash called a “half-speed” practice on Tuesday, in addition to getting some shooting in.

Nash said all others participated as well as the Nets chase that chemistry after concluding a regular season in which Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant played just eight games together and a center rotation that saw Coney Island Cyclone levels of twists and turns this season seems to have stabilized with Blake Griffin starting the final six games and Nic Claxton back in rhythm after missing two weeks due to health and safety protocols.

“I think it’s really important,” said Nash. “We have, we would think, two of our best lineups have never played together. Ky, Kevin, James, Joe have never played with — I shouldn’t say never — but have just recently played with Blake or with Nic. That is our gap that we need to close. That is where this week can help us iron out some of those things. We’re not going to get a ton of reps this week in that we also want our team to recover from what was a really crazy season. A lot of guys coming out of injuries, but we want to get some reps and we also want to spend the time cleaning up what we do and having a better, deeper understanding now that we finally have near full availability.”

While the Nets were on hold in terms of an opponent, they did learn that their first-round Game 1 would be on Saturday at 8 p.m.. In addition, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday that fan capacity would be greatly increased in time for the start of the playoffs, with 50 percent of the seating set aside for vaccinated fans with no social distance requirements and additional, socially distanced seating allowed for masked, unvaccinated fans.

Barclays Center’s capacity for basketball is 17,732.

“It will be exciting if we can have a lot of people in the building,” said Nash. “I’m not quite sure how it’s all going to work out, but granted if there are more people in the building it should be louder and it should be more fun for everyone. Excited to see the building fill up a little bit and let’s hope we can get safely to as many people as possible.”

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