After a rocky December that saw the Brooklyn Nets go 5-11, and fire coach Avery Johnson in the process, the Nets started the New Year with 3 wins, dropping Oklahoma City 110-93 in OKC, holding off lowly Washington 115-113 in 2 OT, and scorching the Kings, 113-93 last night. This moves the Nets to 3-0 in the New Year, and more importantly, 5-1 under interim coach PJ Carlesimo, with the lone loss coming New Year’s Eve to San Antonio. The firing of Avery Johnson has definitely given this team a spark, as they have won 5 of 6, and 3 in a row for the first time since mid-November.
They have done it with dominating offense and spectacular defense. They have allowed 93 points in regulation each of their past 3 games. The Washington game ended with a 4th quarter score of 93-93, so even though they scored 113 against the Nets, it took 2OT for the Wizards to get there.
In the OKC game, the Nets rattled the Thunder so much that Kevin Durant had his first career ejection in the game, as the Nets frustrated the Thunder all night, and snapped the Thunder’s 12-game home winning streak. Joe Johnson led the way with 33 points, by far his best effort of the season to date, and Deron Williams added 19 points and 13 assists as the talented backcourt is now performing well since the departure of Avery Johnson. Brook Lopez added 25.
The Nets followed that game with a surprisingly much tougher win against the 4-win Washington Wizards. The Brooklyn Nets trailed early, going down 30-20 after one quarter, and spent the entire game battling back. They would take a 93-91 lead with 3 seconds remaining in regulation on a Brook Lopez tip-in of a Deron Williams miss, but Washington would answer to force OT. Then Washington appeared to be in total control, bolting out to a 101-93 lead early in the OT, but the Nets battled back again, spurring an 11-0 run to take a 104-101 lead with mere seconds left in the first overtime period. But Brandon Beal would force double OT, hitting on a 3 to tie the game at 104-104.
The second overtime period would be a seesaw battle, and the Nets would ultimately get a game-winning jumper from Joe Johnson with 0.7 seconds remaining to make it 115-113. The Nets would hold off the Wizards on their final shot attempt, escaping Washington with a gritty win. Brook Lopez and Deron Williams both notched double-doubles, with Lopez getting 27 points and gathering 13 boards, while Deron Williams scored 24 and dished 10 dimes. Joe Johnson added 18, but his only bucket after the 4th quarter was the game winner.
Notoriously, Brooklyn has trouble with back-to-back games, and without a day between their game with Washington and their home tilt with Sacramento, the Nets had to try to find a way to get an elusive victory in the second game of the back-to-back. But the Nets used all of the momentum gained from their OKC and Washington victories to spur them to victory in this one. They led most of the game, and for most of it, they were ahead by double digits. In fact, the starters rested most of the 4th quarter as the game was well decided before then. Andray Blatche had 15 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. Blatche was one of four Nets to have 15 points. MarShon Brooks, Joe Johnson, and Deron Williams also hit that mark. Rookie Mirza Teletovic added 14 points, and Brook Lopez added 18. Kris Humphries registered a DNP due to injury, and Reggie Evans took over in the starting lineup, snaring 12 rebounds.
The Nets have improved to 19-15, and are climbing back up the Eastern Conference standings, sitting right now in 6th place, one half game behind Chicago for 5th, and 2 games behind Atlanta for 3rd. The Nets currently sit 4.5 games back of the Knicks in the division, and the same differential separates the Nets from Miami at the top of the Eastern Conference.
For Brooklyn, their schedule continues to be light this month, as their next game isn’t until Tuesday at Philadelphia, who has been struggling as of late. Later this month, the schedule gets tougher, as Joe Johnson returns to Atlanta for his first game there as a Net, and the Nets also play their final game of the regular season against the Knicks in a couple of weeks. Their next few games shake out as follows:
1/8 @ Philadelphia
1/11 vs Phoenix
1/13 vs Indiana
1/15 vs Toronto
1/16 @ Atlanta
1/18 vs Atlanta
It’ll be interesting to see how the next few games play out, but the crucial part are the 2 games against Atlanta. That could propel the Nets back to 3rd in the East. Right now, they have a lot of momentum, and a pretty favorable schedule.