The Nets' April schedule features three crucial showdowns with Eastern Conference contenders.
The schedule makers were kind to the Brooklyn Nets (42-31) in April. The Nets’ final nine opponents have a combined record of 268-379 (that’s a winning percentage of .414.).
This is great news for a team that’s performed exceptionally well against sub-.500 competition. Brooklyn is 26-4 against .500-or-worse teams (at time of game played).
It will be important for the Nets to continue to take care of business down the stretch. With just nine games remaining, coach P.J. Carlesimo’s squad trails the crosstown rival New York Knicks by four games in the Atlantic Division.
All nine of Brooklyn’s April contests are against teams from the Eastern Conference. Three of which are must-watch matchups with the playoff-bound Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers. The outcome of these three marquee tilts will go a long way toward determining the final playoff seeding. The Nets, Bulls and Celtics are separated by just three-and-a-half games.
The Nets’ other six April opponents are a combined 145-287 (.369). But Deron Williams and company can’t afford to overlook the pesky Philadelphia 76ers and Washington Wizards. Philly and Washington have underachieved this season, but both have enough talent to give the Nets some problems.
Joe Johnson hit a game-winning jump shot in Washington on Jan. 4.
The Nets lock horns with the Wizards for the fourth and final time at the Barclays Center on April 15.
Brooklyn will be fortunate enough to host two basement dwellers in the Wizards and Detroit Pistons to finish the regular season. Washington, however, gave the Nets some trouble in two of their three previous meetings.
It took two overtime periods and a Joe Johnson buzzer-beater to vanquish the Wiz in the nation’s capital on Jan. 4. On Feb. 8, the Nets fell at Washington 89-74 and then got revenge 95-78 in Brooklyn thanks to a record-setting performance by superstar point guard Deron Williams.
A healthy John Wall has been the difference for the Wizards.
Washington has gone 21-18 since the franchise point guard returned from injury on Jan. 12. Without Wall, Washington was 5-28. When the Wizards beat the Nets on Feb. 8, he scored 15 points and dished out nine assists. Barring unforeseen circumstances, Wall will be in the lineup on April 15 in Brooklyn, and it will be up to D-Will to shut him down.
PREDICTION: Nets 98-90
Jrue Holiday and the Sixers have played Brooklyn tough this season.
The Nets will seek redemption against the lowly Philadelphia 76ers on April 9.
Like the Wizards, the Sixers have played tough against Brooklyn this season. On Dec. 23, the Nets staved off a furious eight-point comeback in the final 40.5 seconds and held on for a 95-92 win. On Jan. 8, the Nets crushed the Sixers 109-89 and then suffered a disappointing 106-97 loss in Philadelphia on March 11.
The past year has been a disaster for the Sixers. Following a season in which they took the Celtics to seven games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Philly has gone 29-43 and will miss the playoffs.
That will happen when you trade away your best defensive player and sign a center with two bad knees to a one-year, $17 million contract.
But some pieces from last year’s playoff team remain, and they’ll be determined to even up the season series with their division rival. Young stars Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young are more than capable of spoiling the Nets’ chances at a top-three seed.
PREDICTION: Nets 102-98
The Nets and Celtics last met on Christmas Day.
It’s been over three months since the Nets and Celtics have clashed on the hardwood.
Boston crushed Brooklyn 93-76 on Christmas Day, but a lot has changed since then. The Celtics no longer have their All-Star point guard and the Nets have a different head coach.
Rajon Rondo tore his ACL on Jan. 25, forcing the Celtics to play the rest of the season without their superstar. The Nets, meanwhile, fired head coach Avery Johnson on Dec. 27.
When the Atlantic Division rivals meet on April 10, it will be Avery Bradley running the point for the Celtics and interim coach P.J. Carlesimo patrolling the sideline for the Nets.
The Celtics are ranked seventh in the Eastern Conference and currently sit four games behind the fourth-ranked Nets. They are three games ahead of the eighth-ranked Milwaukee Bucks.
It’s crucial the Celtics stay ahead of the Bucks because the eighth-seeded team in the East will be forced to play the vaunted Miami Heat in a first-round series.
Depending on how things play out over the next week, this could be an extremely important game for both the Nets and Celtics. Luckily for fans without NBA League Pass or the YES Network, it will be nationally televised on ESPN.
PREDICTION: Celtics 88-85
Joakim Noah has been a matchup problem for the Nets.
The Nets will look to even up their season series with the Bulls on April 4.
In the first three meetings, the teams were able to defend their home court. The Nets beat the Bulls at the Barclays Center 93-89 on Feb. 1, and Chicago took the two games at the United Center on Dec. 15 and March 2.
This game will definitely have playoff implications. The Bulls currently rank sixth in the Eastern Conference, just two games behind the Nets.
But if a date with the Heat awaits the winner of the first-round matchup between the fourth and fifth seeds, is it better to finish as the sixth or seventh seed?
It’s an interesting question that could certainly affect the way playoff-bound teams in the Eastern Conference approach certain matchups in the final month of the season.
One factor that will definitely affect the outcome of this contest will be the health of Bulls center Joakim Noah. Noah has been a Nets killer this season. He accounted for 33 points, 20 rebounds and six blocks in the Dec. 15 and March 2 Bulls wins. He’s missed the last four games while battling plantar fasciitis, and it’s uncertain when he’ll return to the lineup.
PREDICTION: Nets 85-78
The Nets are 2-0 against the Pacers.
The Pacers are the biggest obstacle remaining on the Nets' schedule. But Brooklyn has had Indiana’s number this season.
The Nets bested the Pacers at home 97-86 on Jan. 13 and escaped Indianapolis with an 89-84 overtime victory on Feb. 11.
At 46-27, the Pacers are tied with New York for the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference. They’re young, talented and play suffocating defense.
It’s not easy to beat the Pacers, especially at Bankers Life Fieldhouse where they’re an impressive 29-8. This will be a big test for the Nets. If they’re able to escape with a win, it will be a huge confidence booster entering the postseason.
PREDICTION: Pacers 86-80
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