The Nets will look to carry the energy from their fantastic fourth quarter Friday in Philadelphia into Sunday’s home opener at Barclays Center against Charlotte as they tip off a six-game homestand. It’s a chance to build momentum against the Hornets (2-0).
“The homestand … look, if we were on the road, at home, we’ve got to go through this period where we’re exploring and getting to know each other, trying to figure this thing out. So, it doesn’t really matter,” head coach Steve Nash said. “We just take it as it comes and all the cliches are in effect, keep chipping away at it.”
Still learning how to play with 10 new faces — and without Kyrie Irving — the Nets (1-1) dug themselves into a 19-point first-quarter hole while losing their season-opener in Milwaukee. Then they faced a 14-point first-quarter deficit against the 76ers on Friday, and they to close on a 16-1 run to pull out that one.
“It’s not going to be pretty for a little while here,” Nash cautioned.
“It takes time to find that rhythm and combinations. And also we lost a big piece. It’s not just the new pieces, it’s the void that we’re used to playing with. It’s a lot for us to take on. But hopefully in the weeks coming, we start to clear some of the debris so to speak and figure out how we can best play together.”
The Nets are hoping it doesn’t take weeks.
With all due respect to the Hornets, the schedule gets easier with the reigning champion Bucks and last season’s top seed 76ers out of the way. But the Nets must break the habit of spotting their foes huge leads out of the gate.
“Yeah, we’ll figure it out,” James Harden said. “We don’t like it at all. That’s the one thing that we talk about is the slow starts. We’ll get past it. We’ll figure things out and we’ll get off to a better pace, better start, because ultimately if we jump out it’s going to be difficult for teams to keep up with us.”
With Irving out due to his refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine, Harden and Kevin Durant have had to take on more of a burden. Harden is averaging 20 points, eight assists and 7.5 rebounds. Durant has had to pour in a monstrous 30.5 points, with 13 boards and eight assists.
“We’re the best at what we do, we’ll figure it out,” Harden said of Irving’s absence.
Said Durant: “We’re pros and we have to adapt. We weren’t planning on having to do this, but it’s good for us to make adjustments. It’s good for guys who [weren’t] expecting to play bigger roles to step into those roles and see who we are. This is the situation we’re in, and a lot of guys have taken advantage of it and are looking forward to stepping up their game.”
Like LaMarcus Aldridge, who bounced back from a one-point opener in Milwaukee to fill the role of third scorer in Philadelphia.
Aldridge finished with 23 points on 10-for-12 shooting with two blocks against the Sixers. He had nine points during the pivotal 16-1 run, feasting in the midrange.
“In this day and age the midrange is considered a bad shot, I guess. But I got 19,000-some points off the midrange, so you tell me it’s a bad shot I don’t believe you,” said Aldridge, who is 25 points shy of 20,000. “Last year I was told I’m 49 points from 20,000, so I don’t know where I’m at now. You don’t want to count those things or you’ll have a long night. I’m going to go play, and when I hit it I’ll hit it.”
The Nets will face the Hornets on Sunday and the Wizards on Monday, so he might not have to wait long.
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