I said it on Saturday and I’ll say it again; every game from here on out is essentially a “must-win” game - if the Brooklyn Nets want to avoid the play-in scenario as we head into the playoffs.
They had a nice win against the Heat on the road Saturday night, now they turn their attention toward the Charlotte Hornets; a team that sits one game behind the Nets in the East.
Kyrie Irving is able to make his Barclays debut this season on Saturday, which as always is great news for these Nets. Any rhythm or kinks they can work out in these final weeks should definitely bode well for them as they head into the playoffs.
WHO: Brooklyn Nets (39-35) vs. Charlotte Hornets (38-36)
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. est
WHERE: NBA TV (national), YES (local), WFAN-FM/AM (radio)
Player to watch: Kyrie Irving
In a hilarious twist of fate, it ends against the team where this journey began. Back in October, a swarm of anti-vaxxers wreaked havoc inside and outside of Barclays Center protesting the city mandates that prevented Irving from participating in home games after he chose not to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
On Thursday, after some lobbying by the Nets along with the New York Mets and New York Yankees, the Mayor changed the policy to allow for unvaccinated New York athletes to play within city limits. For Irving and the Nets, it ended a months long journey that tested the strength of their partnership, made life difficult for everyone, and altered the Nets plans for much of the year. Everyone feels how they feel about it, but now that he’s back to work full time, the issue is done for now. At the very least, I won’t have to hear some of y’all cook up cockamamie plans theories about the team playing playoff games outside of Barclays Center anymore. Thank God for small miracles.
When Irving last saw the Hornets, he had a 50-point masterclass as the Nets got a much needed road victory. If he can do something similar tonight, it’ll make an important night even more special for the Nets. Irving is that downhill presence the team has missed for much of the season and when you combine that with his ability to get his own shot whenever he wants, it allows the Nets offense to be at full capacity for 48 minutes a night. Irving and the Nets are fully aware of the importance of this contest, so look for them to make a statement early so they can have Charlotte on their heels.
For more on the Hornets, check out At the Hive.