After losing three of their first four games to begin the month of February, the Brooklyn Nets had a 180-degree turnaround. Heading into their game versus the Sacramento Kings Tuesday night at the Barclays Center, the Nets, who were 20-12, second overall in the Eastern Conference behind the 20-11 Philadelphia 76ers, had won six straight, including a five-game sweep on their nine-day West Coast trip, and had not experienced defeat since Feb. 9.
Since then, they dismissed the Indiana Pacers at home before wins over the Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers in succession. They only had their leading scorer, Kevin Durant, out west for the matchup with the Warriors.
Durant, averaging 29 points and 7.3 rebounds this season, strained his left hamstring during the team’s 134-117 victory against the Warriors to open the trip and sat out the remaining games. In his absence, James Harden and Kyrie Irving showed that they are two of the league’s elite talents.
During the Nets’ six-game winning streak prior to hosting the Kings, Harden averaged 27.5 points, had five double-doubles and one triple-double. On Monday he was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week. It’s the second time he’s earned the honor since being traded to the Nets and the 26th of his career.
Irving sat out the game in Phoenix due to a sore lower back, but in the five games he did suit up averaged 28.4 and 5.6 assists, including scoring 40 against the Kings.
“We’re still growing, but this is a really good road trip for us,” said Harden during the Nets’ recent road trip. “From when I first got here, we’re playing hard and we’re playing smart. We’ve had time to go over things, on both sides of the ball, and that’s why we’re playing better.”
The Nets have four games remaining before the All-Star break. They’ll face the Orlando Magic tonight, Feb. 25, and the Dallas Mavericks Saturday at home, followed by the San Antonio Spurs on Monday and Houston Rockets on Wednesday on the road.
Tuesday’s game marked the first time in 11 months in which fans were allowed in attendance at Barclays. New York State regulations now allow 10% of the building’s capacity.