If there is such a thing as a "big game" just one month into the NBA season, the Nets’ meeting with Golden State Tuesday night at Barclays Center certainly qualifies.
First, it will mark just the third time Kevin Durant has faced his former team since leaving as a free agent in July 2019. But more important, the Nets (10-4) are second in the Eastern Conference behind the Wizards, and Golden State (11-2) is atop the Western Conference with the best record in the NBA.
It might be premature, but it’s easy to imagine the Nets and Golden State meeting in what would be a dream NBA Finals next June. But following the Nets’ victory Sunday in Oklahoma City to complete a 5-1 road trip, Durant wasn’t buying into the hype.
"It’s just another game," said Durant, who leads the NBA in scoring with a 29.6 average just ahead of former Golden State teammate Steph Curry at 28.1. "I mean, it’s 15 games into the season. Obviously, they’re the best team in the league and they’re playing at an elite level, but it’s a regular-season game.
"We want to go out there and win in front of our home crowd, but we’re not going to put pressure on ourselves and call this a Finals matchup. We’re not even looking at it that way. It’s another opportunity for us to build who we are, figure out what we want to do out there and keep pushing."
The Warriors began a four-game road trip with a loss Sunday at Charlotte. But it will be the Nets' first game back after their six-game road trip, the longest of the season, and fatigue could be a factor for them. Also, Durant is nursing a shoulder strain, although he managed to score 33 points in the victory over the Thunder.
"Golden State, they’ve put themselves out ahead of the pack so far across the league," Nets coach Steve Nash said. "They’re playing great basketball, really found a group that fits really well together, has a really strong identity. You can see the positive energy that comes out of that group. It will be a great challenge for us.
"We’re going to have to be ready coming off a long trip. Get home and try and get rested and bring as much energy as we can Tuesday night."
Durant led the Nets to wins in both games against Golden State last season, but James Harden only joined the Nets in time for the second game last season. So this will be just the second time for Durant and Harden to face Golden State together, and Harden is looking forward to it.
"They’re playing extremely well," Harden said. "We know what’s at stake as far as who we’re playing against and Steph is playing at a high level right now. Especially their role players and everybody else who is playing well and affecting the game. So it’s going to be a tough matchup. We’ve got to get home, get some rest after a long road trip and be ready to go Tuesday."