Ten days ago, a brutal loss to the Detroit Pistons forced the Brooklyn Nets to refocus. Since then, the Nets have been a riding a wave of wins, the latest a 109-98 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.
Brooklyn has taken a step toward solving its defensive puzzle and is in the midst of a five-game win streak.
“That [Detroit loss] was a low for us, and it did provoke some conversations and kind of a rededication to what we’re trying to do,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “I’m proud of the way they responded since then, obviously we’ve taken care of business.”
The Nets’ 122-111 loss to Detroit on Feb. 9 was ugly. But after allowing the Pistons to shoot 56% from the field in that game — the highest field goal percentage they’ve allowed in a game this season — Brooklyn has tightened up defensively. The Nets’ five consecutive wins mark their longest win streak of the season.
“It’s about time we turn the corner defensively,” Irving said with a smile. “No team is gonna win anything in this league if they don’t get stops. It’s about time. And we heard them loud and clear in the last few games.”
In the 13 games the Nets played in from January 16 to Feb. 9, the Nets contested 85.5% of shots in the paint, according to Second Spectrum tracking. That ranked 28th in the NBA. Against the Pistons on Feb. 9, Brooklyn contested just 78.6% of shots in the paint, their second-worst shooting percentage in any game since acquiring star guard James Harden in a mid-January trade.
But since Feb. 10, the Nets are contesting 91.1% of shots in the paint — the sixth-highest rate in the NBA.
“I think after our game against Detroit, obviously it was a game in which we struggled really badly on the defensive end and it was sort of, not a breaking point, but it just happened pretty repeatedly up to that point,” Joe Harris said. “I think after that game just the level of focus, the attention to detail and the intensity on the defensive end has really ramped up.”
Brooklyn has kept opponents to under 100 points three times since the Harden trade, and two of those instances have come in their past five games — including against the Lakers. On the other side of the ball, Brooklyn shot 18-of-39 from 3-point range Thursday and is now shooting a league-high 42% from beyond the arc since Harden joined the team.
Irving finished with 16 points against the Lakers. Harris added 21 points, and James Harden had 23 points and 11 assists.
“It is scary out there when other teams are doing their best to stay in the game defensively and we continue to compound more offensive execution,” Irving said.
He added: “We know that this doesn’t happen often where you get a great collection of guys together that have been prominent guys in their roles on their respective teams and you’ve got guys coming off the bench that are starters for other teams.”