The Brooklyn Nets are starting to come together.
After experiencing some growing pains early on, they leave their longest road trip of the season thus far a perfect 5-0. In the process, Brooklyn has begun to answer pointed questions about just how good their defense needs to be to compete at the highest level. Their West Coast swing included wins over the Los Angeles Lakers and the LA Clippers — two teams near the top of the Western Conference standings whom the Nets could face off against in the NBA Finals.
Brooklyn returns home riding their longest win streak of the season — and they’re doing it without Kevin Durant, who is continuing to treat a hamstring strain and has missed Brooklyn’s past four games.
“We came here with a plan to be able to build something here in Brooklyn,” Kyrie Irving said after defeating the Clippers 112-108 on Sunday night. “I think, for the time being, winning six in a row, all it does is keep the world silent for a little bit and then, you know, wait until we hit a bump in the road.”
Before the Nets began to win, their road was bumpy. They excelled against good teams but struggled to beat the league’s bottom-dwellers. Before this win streak, Brooklyn lost by double digits to the Detroit Pistons. The Nets players and coaches agree that served as a turning point.
“We weren’t connected at all,” Irving said. “That was embarrassing. So we just want to continue to demand that standard of excellence.”
Now, the Nets are 12-4 against teams that are .500 or better this season; according to ESPN’s Stats and Information research, that is the best win rate (75%) in the league.
James Harden said that he has observed a “night and day” difference in the Nets’ toughness from when he joined the team in mid-January to now. Harden said the team is “playing hard” and “playing smart” at this point.
“We had a lot of frustrating losses,” Harden said. “We don’t want that to haunt us at the end of the season. So we decided to, as a team, collectively pick it up, each individual.”
The Nets will seek to extend their win streak to seven on Tuesday against the visiting Kings, whom Brooklyn beat in Sacramento during the team’s Western trip.