Nets' Renaissance Continues
By Jason Schott
The Nets got another impressive win on Wednesday in front of a sold-out crowd at Barclays Center, as they beat the Golden State Warriors 102-98. This is their fourth straight win, and they are on a roll heading into their showdown Friday night with the Miami Heat.
This winning streak started as the calendar turned to 2014 with a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. That win is having the same effect their win in Oklahoma City did last January, as they sparked a winning streak as well.
This one did not start out well for the Nets, as the Warriors did whatever they wanted on offense in the first ten minutes, and opened up a 32-16 lead with 1:43 left in the opening quarter.
Over the next 14 minutes, the Nets went on a torrid pace and scored 43 points to take a 59-52 lead into halftime. The first half ended on a Mirza Teletovic buzzer-beater from half court.
The Nets were clinging to a 75-74 lead entering the fourth quarter, and Kevin Garnett was ready to make his presence felt.
Garnett had a three-point play on the Nets' first possession of the fourth and hit his next three shots, all long jumpers that he has had trouble with for most of the season. Garnett had 11 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter, and shot 5-for-7 overall with 5 rebounds and 4 steals.
Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd said of Garnett, "Offensively and defensively, he has been off the charts. Tonight, defensively, he has been incredible for us since that Oklahoma game. He looks like he's 25 and tonight, offensively, he looked like he was 21."
Garnett said of being a big part of the Nets' win, "It felt good. I thought defensively we were sound. We came out, they gave us a big blow in the first quarter, and I thought we kept our composure and didn't fall back. Going into '14, the new year, we said we obviously wanted to change this thing and I think effortwise, our performance, we haven't just been talking about it but coming out and giving a better effort and tonight I just followed the effort. I'm understanding more and more of what Jason needs out of me and just trying to do the best job at that."
The fourth quarter was highly entertaining, as the Nets and Warriors exchanged baskets and neither had a lead of more than two points until the end. The game was tied at 93 with 1:12 left when Shaun Livingston was fouled. He hit a free throw, and Joe Johnson followed it up with a couple of free throws of his own to give the Nets a 96-93 lead.
The Nets played some impressive defense in the final minute, as Livingston forced a steal of Andre Iguodala and Garnett stole an ill-advised Stephen Curry pass with 12.8 seconds remaining.
Joe Johnson has continued his great play in the absence of Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, cementing his role as the main scorer on the Nets. Johnson had 27 points on 8-for-17 shooting and was 9-for-11 from the free throw line, with 3 rebounds and 2 assists.
A big reason for the Nets' turnaround is the play of Andrei Kirilenko, who had 8 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists. Kirilenko has basketball instincts that others off the bench do not possess, and it is evident that he knows where to be on the floor on both ends, especially on defense.
Andray Blatche had a big night, in his third game back from his sabbatical for "personal reasons." He had 17 points (6-for-13 FG), with 5 rebounds and 3 assists.
For the Warriors, this was their only loss on a seven-game road trip and it snapped a 10-game winning streak. It was just the third time in Nets' history that they have beaten a team that had won ten or more consecutive games.
Warriors Head Coach Mark Jackson said, "Well it's certainly a tough loss. I'm a little disappointed we didn't finish this road trip up the right way. Give Brooklyn credit, a great job by them."
Kidd said of what the Nets can take away from this game, "I think right off the bat they came out and had a 32-point quarter and normally, it would have gone the other way. We felt that we got some great looks that didn't go down for us but we stayed the course and in 2014, we have been doing that. The guys just kept playing, the second quarter we had a 37-point quarter, which might be one of the highest. We played for 48 minutes both offensively and defensively and that's helped us win these games of late."