- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
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So the Nets catch a break and maybe they can improve on their 13-game winning streak at Barclays.
One thing is certain: The Nets’ home-winning streak only enhances the importance for Brooklyn to get home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Going into Monday night’s games, the Nets (39-33) trailed the Raptors (42-31) by 2 1/2 games for the Atlantic Division. And they trailed Chicago (41-32) by 1 1/2 games going into Monday night.
The Raptors play at Miami and Chicago hosts Boston on Monday night.
Washington (38-35) could still potentially catch the Nets as well. If the Nets finish fifth or sixth, they’ll start the playoffs on the road and have to play a potential Game 7 on the road.
The Nets are 14-22 on the road this season. Since Jan. 1, the Nets have put together perhaps the greatest turnaround in NBA history. They were 11 games below .500 before January but are 29-12 in 2014. No team in NBA history entered January at 10 or more games under .500 and went on to post a winning percentage of .600 after December, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
The Nets have a .707 winning percentage after December. However, their winning percentage on the road is just .500 during that span as they are 10-10 on the road in 2014.
So as you can see, the Nets are still a little shaky on the road and would benefit by being able to have that extra game at home in the first round, particularly if it is against the Bulls.
Sure, the Nets are capable of beating a Chicago or Toronto in a first-round series without home-court advantage. But as good as the Nets have been playing –- they own the best record in the Eastern Conference and fourth-best in the NBA since Jan. 1 –- they can use any added advantage they can get.
Jason Kidd has been better than expected, orchestrating the stunning turnaround. But he is still a rookie coach who had never coached at any level before this season. So when the postseason begins, he will get his first taste of playoff basketball.
As a player, Kidd knew exactly what it took to raise his game to another level in the playoffs. But this is will be a whole new ballgame for him as a coach.
If it’s Nets versus Bulls in the first round, Kidd will have to match wits with one of the best in Tom Thibodeau. Thibodeau’s defense is as stingy as they come and his team plays as tough as anybody in the NBA –- two qualities that are musts in order to win in the postseason.
The Nets added toughness and experience in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko this season. But with that added wisdom, those vets also have to watch their health -- namely Garnett and Kirilenko. The Nets will also have an advantage in the star department. You need stars to play like stars in the playoffs, and the Nets have star scorers in Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Pierce, while Chicago will be without Derrick Rose.
Give the Nets home-court advantage and their confidence will be high going in. Perhaps they hold serve in the first two games and hit the road with a 2-0 lead. Stealing one on the road would allow them to potentially close out a series at Barclays in five. And of course, if needed, a Game 7 would be at Barclays, which would certainly be a lot more comforting than say the United Center.
Last year, the Nets had Game 7 on their home floor but lost to the Bulls, 99-93. They would have to feel better about their chances if the same happened again this postseason because of the way they have played at home, with Pierce and Garnett on their side.
The Nets haven’t lost at home since Jan. 31 when Kevin Durant and the Thunder lit them up, 120-95, at Barclays. If they win on Tuesday against the Howard-less Rockets, the Nets could potentially keep their home streak alive through the postseason. Their remaining home games are against the Pistons, Hawks, Magic and Knicks.
And with 10 games remaining in the regular season, a win over the Rockets could mean more than just keeping that streak alive. It could be the difference between winning and losing in the first round.
Here’s a look at the Nets' and Bulls’ remaining schedule:
Apr. 1 vs Rockets
Apr. 2 at Knicks
Apr. 4 vs Pistons
Apr. 5 at Sixers
Apr. 8 at Heat
Apr. 9 at Magic
Apr. 11 vs Hawks
Apr. 13 vs Magic
Apr. 15 vs Knicks
Apr. 16 at Cavaliers
Mar. 31 vs Celtics
Apr. 2 at Hawks
Apr. 4 vs Bucks
Apr. 5 at Wizards
Apr. 9 at Timberwolves
Apr. 11 vs Pistons
Apr. 13 at Knicks
Apr. 14 vs Magic
Apr. 16 at Bobcats