Brooklyn coach Steve Nash likes the way his team has persevered during its four-city road trip. The Nets will finish up their journey Sunday against the team with the NBA’s worst record.
Brooklyn collected victories at Dallas and Atlanta during the nearly week-long swing, with those successes sandwiching a loss at Houston on Wednesday. On Sunday, they will face the Detroit Pistons, who have lost 11 consecutive games.
The Nets, who own the Eastern Conference’s best record at 18-8, outscored the Hawks 24-14 in the fourth quarter of a 113-105 victory Friday.
“We’ve had a little bit of a tougher schedule at home, in a sense, but you go on the road anywhere in this league, it’s tough to win,” Nash said. “Our guys have had a great mentality on the road to come from behind in Dallas and Atlanta on this trip. I’m proud not only of the effort but the mentality, the willingness to not let go of games.
“You go on the road and sometimes it’s not going your way. You give up on a play here and there and that’s the difference. Our guys have not done that.”
Kevin Durant led the way in Atlanta with 31 points, six assists, five rebounds and three blocks. The Nets also got a boost from two young reserves.
Rookie Cam Thomas, coming off a season-high 18 points against the Rockets, had 11 points and six rebounds. He made three of his four 3-point tries. That has added significance with sharpshooter Joe Harris currently sidelined after undergoing ankle surgery late last month.
“With Joe out, it’s great to have another shooter out there,” Nash said. “Cam can obviously score. It gives us another scoring option, someone they’ve got to pay attention to on the perimeter.”
Nic Claxton has returned to the rotation after being sidelined for over a month with a non-COVID-19 illness. Claxton gave the team a second-half jolt with four points and four rebounds while playing a major defensive role with his ability to switch.
“Nic brings a different dimension than any of our other bigs on both ends of the ball,” Nets star James Harden said. “Being able to guard elite guards. like tonight Trae (Young), and then offensively, he’s able to finish and offensive rebound. So, he brings a different dynamic that we’ve been missing all year long.”
The Pistons have been lacking in all areas this season. Their latest loss came at New Orleans on Friday, when they fell 109-93 after leading by as many as 15 points in the first half.
Head coach Dwane Casey expressed a sense of exasperation with his team afterward.
“Collapse,” he said. “We totally gave in to adversity.”
New Orleans scored the first 10 points of the second half to take a 64-55 lead and the Pistons never made a run.
“We can’t continue to come out after halftime not ready to compete,” Casey said. “A lot of little breakdowns we had defensively, things we didn’t do. Offensively, I think we missed six layups. We’ve got to look at coming out of the third quarter, how we’re going to approach it.”
This is the third of four meetings between the Nets and Pistons. Brooklyn romped to a 117-91 victory at home on Oct. 31 and pulled out a 96-90 road victory on Nov. 5. They will meet up again on March 29.
–Field Level Media