The Nets’ last two road trips were unforgettable. In May, they took on the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, losing 129-120 in Game 7. In August, they knocked off the Cleveland Cavaliers to become the first National Basketball Association franchise to play in back-to-back Summer Olympics in basketball.
“We play our heart out,” said Brook Lopez, whose season and his team are on the wane. The Nets lost in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, but defied expectations to make the Olympic tournament with the 32-35 record that went with it. Lopez, a defensive-minded big man, failed to make the cut after playing at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, and was not expected to compete in London because he only averaged 7.6 points per game this season.
The Nets couldn’t handle Steph Curry and the Warriors in Game 7, but had control of the game until a 9-0 Warriors run over the final 4:03 sealed their fate. Lopez had a team-high 27 points in the game. “He was great,” Warriors star Kevin Durant said after the game. “Like, incredible basketball.”
In the wake of the defeat, the Warriors were named favorites to win the NBA Finals, a logical decision given that they entered the series as the top seed and were playing the road team in their regular-season finale, guaranteeing them the No. 1 seed for the playoffs.
“The top team in the West, or at least the top seed, was able to go out there and play at a high level,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, “which was something the Lakers should have been able to do … they’re just a better team than us, obviously.”
The Nets didn’t make the playoffs this season, playing only four games at home compared to the six they played in 2013-14. Had they gained at least one more victory against the Lakers, they would have gone bowling for the first time.
So why play the Lakers to begin the summer? The Lakers are in need of a general manager. They held an introductory press conference for former Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder on Wednesday, and hopes to make a hire in the next few weeks. According to a report by ESPN, Los Angeles is looking at former Magic Johnson assistant Ric Bucher as a candidate to lead their front office.
Instead, they chose to waste a five-game road trip in Los Angeles, the last before the start of the offseason.
But other teams have traveled farther, including the Atlanta Hawks, who took on the Oklahoma City Thunder for five games in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. No NBA franchise has ever taken part in the Summer Olympics than missed the playoffs.