The Nets have won four straight, the longest winning streak in the East, as well as eight of their last nine. They’re 17-12 and it looks like the worst part of the season, a tough 20-game opening stretch, is behind them. They appear to beyond their big distractions, Steve Nash being dumped and Kyrie Irving being suspended, and can look forward to some relief starting with their current three-day break between games. Of their 14 back-to-backs, they’ve played seven, their remaining schedule is sixth easiest in the league according to Tankathon and they are healthy. Royce O’Neale, who’s missed two games due to personal reasons, will be back in action Friday in Toronto, hopefully giving the Nets a clean injury report (for the first time since the Clean Sweep in 2019!) They also had a signature win Saturday, beating the Pacers with eight players, essentially their entire rotation, out.
But in the immediate future, they will face a big test, a schedule that next week includes games against the defending champion Warriors, the Bucks and Cavaliers, the first two at Barclays Center. Golden State is getting better, Milwaukee is increasingly a big rival and the Cavaliers feature ex-Nets Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert.
Is the Nets’ good fortune sustainable?
“That’s a good question,” Kyrie Irving said after the win latest win, over the Wizards. “We’re just going to do our everyday, do our jobs at the end of the season and things are clicking hopefully. I don’t want to say hopefully: They will be clicking. We just have to put in the work.
“Whether it’s sustainable or not, we have to prove that to ourselves every time we lace them up, every time we come in the locker room, every time we prepare. We know what the job is: Go handle it.”
As noted above, there are a lot of positives, but there are also questions. As Brian Lewis notes, the Nets have been “more diligent than dominant” of late. Of the six wins on their seven-game homestand, all but one was by single digits and they failed their big test against the conference-leading Celtics. Moreover, as Lewis recounts, the Nets faced some undermanned squads, with Portland’s Damian Lillard, Boston’s Robert Williams III and Marcus Smart, Charlotte’s LaMelo Ball, Atlanta’s John Collins and Orlando’s Mo Bamba were all out when they played Brooklyn.
Even Kevin Durant admitted that caveats have to attached to the Nets good news.
“Favorable schedule, being at home for seven of those. Being able to wake up in our own beds and have our own routine at home definitely matters,” Durant said. “We also faced a couple of teams that were missing some guys, as well.
“But for the most part, I liked the brand of basketball we played on both ends of the floor, regardless of who was on the court. We still played our system and we did the things we wanted to out there on both ends. So yeah, being at home counts. Having everybody back healthy counts. So we just want to keep plugging away.”
“We got a lot of trust, everybody on this team can play,” Simmons told Meghan Triplett of the YES Network after putting up 10 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists in 23 minutes Monday. “It’s just a matter of everybody locking in and that’s the main thing.”
How do they prove themselves? No news here: general consistency and effort as well as defensive intensity. Jacque Vaughn, himself a big part of the Nets recent success, has been prioritizing those things in his discussions with both the players ... and the media.
“I’ll continue to talk about the consistency of playing hard,” Vaughn said. “That’s our next challenge.”
“That’s the toughest part of the game to be honest, is to continue to consistently do that every single night, and that’s what the great teams do: They dial it up every night,” said KD. “Even when the offense isn’t working, you can still be a connected group on the defensive side. So we’re building somethings, and we’ve gotta continue to keep fine tuning.”
- Nets winning streak staring down a brutal test - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Nets’ Royce O’Neale slated for Friday return - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- How the once-dysfunctional Nets got their groove back - Adam Zagoria - NJ.com
- Jacque Vaughn says using iPad for adjustments is building continuity: ‘We didn’t have that previously’ - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News