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Tough schedule follows tough loss

Charlotte Hornets v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

The easy part of the schedule is over and the Nets would no doubt feel better if they had beaten Charlotte on Wednesday night at home. But that opportunity was lost when Devonte Graham destroyed with a 40-point performance.

Now, the Nets have a back-to-back weekend of the Raptors in Toronto on Saturday and the 76ers home on Sunday. The division best have a combined record of 35-15 and stars aplenty.

The Nets missing stars won’t play in either game but Wilson Chandler will likely make his Nets debut on Sunday.

“We want to continue to do better,” Spencer Dinwiddie said. “Obviously we’ve got a tough little stretch coming up. So that narrative could continue if we lose to Toronto in Toronto, even though they’re one of the top teams in the East. We just need to try to get the next game, folks; 82 games is a long time. We’ve been winning so far; let’s just keep it rolling.”

Indeed, the Nets are 9-4 without Kyrie Irving, but the loss Wednesday to a mediocre Charlotte team raised a lot of red flags. The Nets were up by 20 in the first half and double figures in the second, only to get Hornet coach James Borrego outfox them. With Joe Harris and Taurean Price 3-of-14 behind the arc for the game, including a 1-of-10 to start, Borrego installed a zone. The Nets couldn’t get the ball inside. On the defense, the Hornets employed a switching offense that freed up Graham, particularly on the Charlotte dagger.

“In the huddle, I had asked coach whoever Joe was guarding, can they come over and set a screen,” Graham said post-game. “We hadn’t run that all game, so just to see what they would do — and they switched it, so I was just trying to attack him and see if someone would help.”

Borrego agreed, Graham buried the shot and the Nets lost.

Dinwiddie expects to see more zoning by opponents but thinks the Nets 3-point shooting should put an end to that strategy.

“We definitely got stagnant after they went to the zone, which is pretty surprising with the caliber of shooters we have on this team,” Dinwiddie said. “We’ve just gotta make quicker decisions as a unit, get those guys shots. I mean, when you have guys like Joe [Harris], [Garrett Temple] and Taurean Prince on the floor, we’ve just gotta get the guys shots. They’re phenomenal shooters.

“No one should be able to zone us, especially not in our own house. We should be able to shoot them out of that thing, so we’ve just gotta do a better job collectively.”

Overall, the Nets are 10-5 against sub-.500 teams, but only 3-6 vs. those with a record above .500. No matter who’s on the court, they’ll have to do better if they want to meet their lofty ambitions.

Meanwhile, Ian Eagle, in an interview with the Post, says ultimately the Nets may benefit from having Irving take some time off. It will give him a chance to watch how his team plays and he dismisses any notion that he’s not happy in New York.

“The reality is he’s meshed well with his teammates, there are relationships that have formed quickly and he’s been present,” Eagle said. “I think, if anything, what’s happened is the realization that he doesn’t have to do it all himself. To me, that would be more of a positive exhale that when he comes back you pick and choose your spots.

“I do think he’s getting a different perspective watching from the sidelines and the team can benefit from that in some way. He’s a really smart player. In this league, smart players usually figure things out. He has a great basketball mind. In my experience, he wants to do what’s best for the team.”

Eagle also said the Nets are not postponing their intention of competing at the highest level, waiting for Irving and LeVert to get healthy or for Durant to return.

“There is still this expectation level. This is not a gap year for the Nets where they are waiting for Kevin Durant to come back and Kyrie Irving to be completely healthy. They still have a good organization. It’s what you’ve come to expect, you are not surprised by success anymore.”