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Nets taking it game-by-game as they head west

NBA: Utah Jazz at Brooklyn Nets Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

When the schedule came out, November stood out the most because of how tough it looked. The Nets started the month on a five-game road-trip, then came home for games against the Celtics, Jazz, Warriors, Cavaliers and Trail Blazers. Ugh.

They haven’t played bad considering they’re without their two best players. They have been competing against the NBA’s best, but a loss is still a loss no matter how you want to look at it. Head coach Kenny Atkinson spoke to it last week.

“I thought ‘geez we’re on a four-game losing streak’ going on that West coast trip, so we felt like we needed a win, felt like we needed to play well,” said Atkinson before last Sunday’s game against Golden State. “Beating Portland, beating Phoenix gave us a little confidence coming back. What I’ve tried to do is ignore this part of the schedule. I just wanted to focus on that West coast trip… I knew that was going to be tough.”

They finished the West coast trip with a 2-3 record. Not bad. But D’Angelo Russell went down in Utah and they’ve four of the last five with their only win coming against the Jazz. Again, they’ve competed and improved despite circumstances, but there’s no telling that to the standings… or schedule makers.

Now, the Nets will finish the gruesome month of November with a quick trip to the south, or as Atkinson calls it, “The Texas swing.” It’s not as awful as Texas swings have been in the past. First of all, they don’t play San Antonio. Their next game is against a team, the Grizzlies, who’ve lost seven straight and are without Mike Conley and Brandan Wright. The Rockets of course are the Rockets and Chris Paul is back. But the Mavericks are a mess. They have the second worst record in the NBA at 4-15. Only the Bulls are worse.

“Listen, I worry so I try not to look ahead too far,” Atkinson said of the month in general. “Every game is so tough in the NBA, but this is a tough stretch for us and then after this we go on the Texas swing that isn’t pretty. Again, we’re in the process of improving as we’ve really gotta look at ourselves every game, judge against ourselves. I do think that gets us out of the hole and helps us continue to grow.”

Brooklyn has played well enough to create interesting games, but that’s about it. They’re 3-7 in November while averaging 106.8 points per game. That’s down from 114.6 points per game in October, but they’ve also held opponents to eight fewer points than they did in October.

There are opportunities when you play the best. Individual players get a chance to measure themselves and many have stepped up. Spencer Dinwiddie is averaging 17.8 points 8.7 assists and only 1.2 turnovers in the five games he’s filled in for Russell, shooting 39.4 percent from three. In that same period, Allen Crabbe is averaging 17 points while shooting 48.7 percent from three. Caris LeVert, too, has stepped up coming off the bench, putting up 12 points a contest with a 50 percent percentage from deep. Similarly, Joe Harris has averaged 12.5 points and hit 40 percent of his three’s.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson isn’t shooting three’s like his teammates, but in those same five games, he’s put up 15.2 points and seven rebounds. And we’ve all seen what Jarrett Allen can do.

Take it how you’d like. Every team has ‘tough’ stretches and like Atkinson said, every game in the NBA is tough. More importantly, as DeMarre Carroll said, the Nets need a win to get beyond all this.

“Until we get it, we’re going to have days like this — a sad locker room,” the eight-year veteran said.