The Brooklyn Nets will open their 2021-22 home schedule on Sunday afternoon against the Charlotte Hornets, and it marks the start of the longest home stand the Nets will have all season, a six-game stretch that runs through Nov. 3.
The Nets opened up the season by splitting a pair of road games against their companions in the Eastern Conference’s top 3 last season — Milwaukee and Philadelphia. After dropping the opener against the Bucks, they hung around after falling behind by 14 against the Sixers and eventually closed the game on a 16-1 run for a 114-109 win, limiting Philadelphia to 18 points on 26.1 percent shooting in the fourth quarter.
“I think we were relentless with our competition, our willingness to fight for good looks, our willingness to scrap defensively,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “I don’t think there is anything that we are going to bottle up and put it in a museum from this one. It was just a team effort, guys coming in and out and not worrying about being in the right spot but fighting and scrapping and trying to compete. Sure, we made a lot of plays down the stretch but that was more of our willingness to keep going. We were down 10, it seems like every few minutes it was back to 10. Their willingness to continue to compete and believe was the reason why they won the game.”
Against the Sixers, Kevin Durant notched his 13th career triple-double with 29 points, 15 rebounds, and 12 assists.
“Every game is different,” said Durant. “We all know some of these contending teams like physical play defensively, they’re so versatile defensively. So going into the game, I’ve got to just be prepared to do anything. It might not be my night scoring, it might not be my night assisting, so I’ve just got to be ready to do anything. At the offensive end, I think I started scoring for us. But my role tonight was more getting into the paint, making plays, rebounding and knocking down shots if I had them. I wish I’d made a few late, but I feel like I rushed a lot of shots. But it was a great team win for us. Everybody came and stepped it up defensively. LaMarcus was incredible for us tonight. I’m so happy that he’s got his legs up under him and he’s getting more comfortable. We’ve got to keep building on this and see where we can go.”
The next stage of the journey begins Sunday afternoon at Barclays Center. Let’s take a look at who is bound for Brooklyn as the Nets play six home games in 11 days.
October 24 vs. Hornets, 4:00PM
Charlotte has won its first two games behind a scorching start from second-year guard LaMelo Ball, who averaged 24.0 points on 54.3 percent shooting — 66.7 percent from 3-point range — with 6.5 assists, 6.0 rebounds, and 3.5 steals per game in wins over Indiana and Cleveland. The Hornets took a 10-win jump last season to 33-39, which was good enough to get them to 10th-place in the Eastern Conference and a spot in the NBA’s first-ever play-in round before they were trounced 144-117 by Indiana in that game. Ball was the Rookie of the Year after averaging 15.7 points, 6.1 assists, and 5.9 rebounds per game, and Charlotte got a boost from the free agent signing of Gordon Hayward, although injury limited him to just 44 games as he averaged 19.6 points and shot 41.5 percent from 3-point range. Terry Rozier led Charlotte with 20.4 points per game. The Hornets picked up veterans Mason Plumlee and Kelly Oubre Jr. and drafted James Bouknight 11th overall out of UConn. Plumlee replaces Cody Zeller at center but that won’t change Charlotte’s profile. The Hornets were 20th in both points in the paint and second chance points last season, but 10th in fast break points and ninth in 3-pointers attempted. Rozier was tied for 11th in the league with 8.3 3-point attempts per game and the Hornets will let the perimeter trio of Rozier, Hayward, and Ball dictate the offense again.
October 25 vs. Wizards, 7:30PM
Washington is 2-0 with wins over Indiana and Toronto, with former Net Spencer Dinwiddie going for 34 points, nine assists, and six rebounds while shooting 13-for-24 overall and 6-for-9 from 3-point range in Friday’s OT win over the Pacers. The Wizards shuffled the deck in a big way after finishing in a rush last season and the Nets helped move things along as part of a five-team trade that made Dinwiddie a Wizard by sign-and-trade. After a 6-17 start, Washington went 28-21 the rest of the way last year to finish eighth and beat Boston in a play-in game before losing to Indiana and missing out on the playoffs. The makeover sent Russell Westbrook to the Lakers and also brought back Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Montrezl Harrell. Young center Daniel Gafford emerged after Thomas Bryant tore his ACL in January. The Wizards lost Westbrook’s firepower, but they look deeper around Bradley Beal, who has averaged 30.0 points per game each of the last two seasons. So there’s a new look with Dinwiddie running the show, but a real step forward may also depend on progress from their last two No. 1 draft picks, Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija.
October 27 vs. Heat, 7:30PM
Miami blitzed Milwaukee, 137-95, in its season-opener on Thursday night. The Heat don’t hang back. After battling to the NBA Finals in the bubble, maybe that short offseason caught up to them when they dropped to sixth in the East last year. Jimmy Butler’s early absence surely contributed to a slow start before Miami rebounded to finish out 34-20. Miami reloaded by winning the Kyle Lowry sweepstakes and also lured P.J. Tucker away from the NBA champion Bucks, adding piles of toughness to a team that always relied on that as a foundation anyway.
October 29 vs. Pacers, 7:30PM
Indiana opened the season with a pair of one-point losses against the Hornets and Wizards. Last season, the Pacers had a tumultuous year and fell under .500 for the first time since 2015 after five straight playoff appearances. They pivoted by bringing back Rick Carlisle, who won 61 games and had them in the conference finals in 2004, winning a title during his 13 seasons in Dallas in the interim. There wasn’t much turnover in personnel though — they lost Doug McDermott in a sign-and-trade to San Antonio for a few picks, and dipped a toe into that five-team, Russell Westbrook/Spencer Dinwiddie deal, coming away with rookie Isaiah Jackson, the 21st overall draft pick. They also selected Chris Duarte 13th overall and he’s a rookie guard who looks ready to play right away. Indiana will hope to get a full season out of the Caris LeVert/Malcolm Brogdon pairing in the backcourt, and they’re running it back again with Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner up front.
October 31 vs. Pistons, 7:30PM
The Pistons scored just 88 points in dropping their season-opener against Chicago. So, the rebuild rolls on in Detroit, where the Pistons are one of maybe five of the NBA’s 30 teams that aren’t invested in chasing a playoff spot this season. Last year’s 20-win squad helped deliver No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham, so there’s some excitement there, and Detroit has a deep rookie class of a year ago returning — point guard Killian Hayes, wing shooter Saddiq Bey, and center Isaiah Stewart. They’ve also got wing Jerami Grant, who signed as a free agent heading into the 2020-21 season looking for a leading role and found it, averaging 22.3 points.
November 3 vs. Hawks, 7:30PM
Atlanta opened the season with a big win over Dallas, 113-87. Last season’s breakout club makes a visit to Brooklyn after engaging in three highly entertaining shootouts with the Nets last year. Brooklyn won two of them — 145-141 and then 132-128 in overtime. And that was before the Hawks got going, rebounding from a 14-20 start to make a run to the Eastern Conference Finals. Atlanta’s plan — importing veterans to complement its young, drafted talent — came together in the playoffs, where the Hawks knocked off the No. 1 seed Philadelphia before losing to the Bucks. After that, Atlanta stood pat in the offseason and should play a major role in a crowded Eastern Conference race.