Basketball

Road warrior Nets have opportunity to start building home advantage

The Nets sit atop the Eastern Conference thanks to the best road record in the league. But to get where they want to go this season, they have to start building a home-court advantage.

The Nets (19-8) can start that in earnest Tuesday night when they tip off a trap-filled homestand against Toronto at Barclays Center.

“Just get home, protect the house. We get James [Harden] back next game, get Paul [Millsap] back and just keep plugging away,” Kevin Durant said. “We want to take care of that home court; that’s key.

“We want to start building that advantage for ourselves. That starts in the regular season, our fans getting on board with us, and us going out there and giving them a great product out there on the floor. That means a lot. So that is the main focus: Take care of home.”

James Harden and Kevin Durant
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The Nets’ 11-3 road record is the second-best in the NBA (behind the Suns, who brought their 9-2 road record to Los Angeles for a showdown with the Clippers late Monday), the first time in team history they’ve been eight games over .500 away from home. But their 8-5 mark at Barclays Center was just 10th-best entering Monday.

With Harden (rest) and Millsap (personal reasons) expected to return after missing Sunday’s shorthanded victory in Detroit, the Nets will be reinforced as they open a five-game homestand that includes Toronto, Philadelphia, Orlando, Denver and Washington.

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Whether or not Kyrie Irving ever suits up for them this year, the Nets are going to have to build on their home-court edge to make a deep playoff run. They’re also going to have to figure out how to break the habit of getting off to slow starts.

On their recent 3-1 road trip, all their wins required overturning double-digit deficits with great fourth-quarter defense.

“That’s not a good thing,” Harden said. “We’d love to get off to good starts and keep leads. But it’s a long season and we understand things happen and you could get down double digits, but as long as we try to give ourselves a chance — and it starts on the defensive end — more times than not, we can find a way to win.”

Durant is averaging 29.4 points, tops in the league and his best mark since 2013-14. Additionally, he is averaging 7.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists.

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