With two games left, a weekend back-to-back, the Nets situation is simple. Putting aside all the possible permutations, if they want both games, they’re the second seed. That’s it. It doesn’t matter what the Bucks do ... and they do play the hot Heat Saturday. (Sure, the 76ers haven’t clinched the first seed yet but they play the Magic twice in Orlando this weekend. So the chances of them losing both while the Nets win both of theirs is, well, unlikely.)
If they win out, Brooklyn will play the seventh seed coming out of the play-in tournament. That’s a complicated affair that SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell explained for us, but it would be one of four teams: the Celtics, Hornets, Pacers or Wizards. (Imagine a Nets-Celtics series: Kyrie Irving finally returning to Boston with fans in the stands ... and a chance to expunge the curse of the Boston trade!)
And if they lose to the Bulls on Saturday afternoon and/or the Cavaliers on Sunday evening and the Bucks win out? They’d likely lose the second seed to the Bucks who hold the tiebreaker if the two teams finish with the same record.
The Nets should have a number of advantages going into the weekend. It looks like the “Big Three” are healthy and other than Spencer Dinwiddie and Chris Chiozza, they should be whole. In fact, they haven’t been this healthy since Dinwiddie went down with a torn ACL in Game 3.
Moreover, it’s a relatively easy back-to-back, putting aside the competition. The two games are at home and are at 1 p.m. Saturday and 7:00 p.m. Sunday, offering more rest than usual. In fact, the Nets will be sleeping in their own beds for nearly two weeks. Between the current two-day layoff, the home back-to-back, the six days off while the play-in tournament determines the seventh and eighth seeds, then homecourt advantage in Games 1 and 2 of the playoffs, the Nets will be at home from May 12 through May 24, the day after Game 2. No other team has that advantage.
And if they fall into third, who will they face? At the moment, it would be New York, New York, the perfect end to renewed interest in The City Game here in the city. The Knicks and Heat are currently tied at 38-31 but the Heat own the tiebreaker. The Hawks are a half game ahead of the Knicks and Heat. If the three teams end in a tie, the Hawks get the fourth seed as the top team in the Southeast Division. The Heat would get the fifth seed having swept the Knicks in regular season contests. The Knicks and Heat have two games left, the Hawks one.
Bottom line: As Bobby Marks tweeted on Thursday, there is a “huge difference” between the second and third seeds.
I would say that there is a huge difference between the no. 2 and 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) May 13, 2021
2= Boston, Charlotte, Indy or Washington
3 = Miami, NYK or Atlanta
So all things considered, the Nets best strategy is, just win.
Of course, the other question is how many of the “Big Three” will play how many games, back-to-back or not. James Harden looked great in his return on Wednesday and although Kyrie Irving didn’t play vs. the Spurs, his facial contusions shouldn’t keep him out of whatever games the Nets will want to use him. Kevin Durant is healthy ... and played a back-to-back for the first time this week.
As Harden said of the way the NBA year works...
“Of course,” said Harden. “Preseason is one thing, the regular season is another level, postseason is an entirely other level. And then the levels increase as you go different rounds.
“So, for me I wanted to get out there and just be on the court for my teammates and let them feel my presence. And then also get my conditioning and my wind back up to where I’m able to compete and be effective on both ends of the ball for an extended period of the game.”
How long of “an extended period” remains the question.
- James Harden’s return gives Nets’ Big 3 vital opportunity before playoffs - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Nets’ James Harden: ‘I’m really good at this game’ - Greg Logan - Newsday
- NBA playoff watch: Phoenix Suns slow Portland Trail Blazers’ roll; San Antonio Spurs clinch play-in - ESPN