The Brooklyn Nets have grinded through adversity and risen in the Eastern Conference standings elevated by the future Hall of Famer Kevin Durant. When the Nets played the Washington Wizards last night at the Barclays Center, they were 11-11 and 5-2 in their previous seven games. One month ago, on the morning of Nov. 1, the Nets were 2-5 and fired Steve Nash as their head coach, replacing him with assistant Jacque Vaughn. They lost that night 108-99 at home to the Chicago Bulls to fall to 2-6. They battled injuries, an eight-game team-imposed suspension of guard Kyrie Irving, and forward Ben Simmons reacclimating himself to NBA action after missing 15 months due to physical and mental health issues.
Until Monday’s 109-102 win over the Orlando Magic in Brooklyn, the Nets hadn’t reached .500 since being 1-1 on Oct. 21. They are in a five-game homestand next playing the Toronto Raptors tomorrow, the Boston Celtics Sunday, the Charlotte Hornets next Wednesday and the Atlanta Hawks on Friday, Dec. 9.
Relating the importance of this period, Irving said it’s an opportunity for his team to improve their chemistry. “You get a little bit rhythm,” he explained. “We’re still figuring out lineups, but I think once we do that, we’ll be in better shape,” said Irving.
Kevin Durant has already figured things out. He’s scored 25-plus points in every game this season except one. After dropping 31 points versus the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday afternoon, Durant scored a season-high of 45 in 39 minutes the next night against Orlando. He shot 19-24 including 3-5 on threes. Durant hit 19 in the third quarter shooting 8-9.
“Super efficient” is how Irving, who contributed 20 against the Magic, described Durant.
“When he’s got it going like that, we don’t want to force him the ball, but we definitely want to let him work.”
“The minutes he’s played, what he did last night to lead us into a win is huge,” added Vaughn. “I think it shows the preparation that he puts into his body, what he feels about the game.”
Durant viewed it as business as usual. “…I feel like I’m always on,” he said. “Even if I’m not making shots that night, I feel like my jump shot is always sharp.”