Nets face heavy road stretch which means more Kyrie Irving

The Nets aren’t the only NBA team to post a decidedly better record on the road this season than they have at home, although their dilemma concerning Kyrie Irving’s part-time availability makes their situation unique.

After facing the Pelicans on Saturday at Barclays Center, the Nets will play nine of their next 11 games away from Brooklyn — split into segments of four and five games sandwiched around two home contests on back-to-back nights Jan. 25-26 against the Lakers and Nuggets.

The unvaccinated Irving was out of the lineup due to local COVID-19 mandates and Kevin Durant got a workload night of rest Thursday, when the Nets suffered a blowout loss to the Thunder and fell to 11-11 at Barclays Center this season, as compared to 15-4 on the road.

“It’s strange with the home stuff,” coach Steve Nash admitted after the game. “Not only for us, I couldn’t answer [why], but I know we’re not the only team.

Kyrie Irving, driving to the basket during a recent game against the Bulls, will be playing more games as the Nets prepare for a heavy road stretch.
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“I think it’s going around the league a little bit where teams — good teams, in particular — are having less impressive records at home than on the road. I don’t really know why that is.”

Indeed, the Nets aren’t the only top-tier team with an odd home-road split this season. For instance, the 76ers entered their home game Friday against the Celtics 8-9 at Wells Fargo Center and 15-8 outside of Philadelphia.

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The Nets’ upcoming nine away games will give Irving a chance to gain more familiarity with his fellow Big 3 stars, Durant and James Harden. He also will be able to acclimate himself to the rest of a roster, which has suffered six losses over its last nine games while recuperating from a nearly team-wide COVID-19 shutdown to land at the 41-game midpoint of the season with a 26-15 mark.

“As far as the halfway point, obviously we’ve had a tough stretch lately. When we came back and had everyone come back from COVID I would have said we were having a great season,” Nash said. “People thought we’d be a bottom-five or 10 team defensively going into the year. For the most part of this year we’ve been top-10.

Kyrie Irving goes up for a layup during the Nets' win over the Bulls.
Kyrie Irving goes up for a layup during the Nets’ win over the Bulls.

“We’ve found a way to win a lot of games with 10 new guys and no Kyrie and having Kyrie back and then going back we’ve had a little bit of struggle with just trying to patch this thing together and start again. Otherwise, tons to build on and sometimes when you go through these difficult periods you learn more about yourselves.”

Harden noted Thursday night that a daunting schedule this week of four games in five days — including a makeup of a previous COVID postponement at Portland — has left him and his teammates “tired and exhausted.”

“Man, it’s just been crazy because of the COVID,” Harden said. “[Thursday] was definitely a little frustrating because we wanted to win. We played so well [Wednesday against the Bulls], so we wanted to have some kind of carryover. But it just didn’t happen.”

Nash said he believes the team’s struggles will pay dividends in a second half, which will feature the further reintegration of Irving, perhaps even in home games, eventually.

“You’re able to address things more head on, take a deeper look in the mirror and fix some of the problems,” Nash said. “I kind of enjoy some of these tougher stretches because I think it shows a team how to climb out, how to find resilience and how to find solutions.

“Overall we’ve had a good year and we’ve just got to try to find our stride and consistency again now that we’ve gone through that COVID interruption.”

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