At the end of the Brooklyn Nets‘ comfortable 102-93 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night, there was surely a different feeling in the home locker room at Barclays Center. This is because the Nets were finally the dominant team for an entire game, and given positive results in recent games, it appears that the team has taken a turn for the better after a dreadful start to the 2013-14 season.
With the win, the Nets moved to within a game of the Boston Celtics for the lead of the Atlantic Division, and in turn the third spot in the Eastern Conference. Granted Brooklyn only has an 8-14 record, but this is still encouraging, and victories over title contenders such as the Clippers can be viewed as nothing but a positive.
Throughout Wednesday night’s game, Brooklyn played the type of half-court game that one would think would suit their elder group of players, slowing down Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the rest of the Clippers. Doing this allowed the Nets to control the tempo of the game, keep their players rested and form a blueprint for winning games going forward.
On the interior, Brook Lopez and Kevin Garnett have always had the talent to hold down opposing forwards and centers, but have only been able to show it recently because of health issues. Against the Clippers, the two provided an energetic and effective presence against Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, who were both quiet throughout the night.
When the play of reserve center Andray Blatche is included — he scored 21 points on Wednesday — there is no doubting that Brooklyn has a group of three interior players that can match up against any team in the NBA. Once Reggie Evans returns, this possibility could easily turn into an undoubted truth, as the three are starting to tear apart opposition.
The perimeter corps of Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Alan Johnson and Paul Pierce may not be youthful, but they all know how to play. Like their interior counterparts, this group has dealt with injuries, but the four were all healthy and combined to score 49 points, with 11 assists and 16 rebounds. None was a world-breaker, but they provided good combined shooting, smart movements that quieted Los Angeles and provided reason for excitement moving forward.
And while some people will say that the biggest problem to any turnaround will always be head coach Jason Kidd, even this argument looks to be losing steam. Kidd has begun to develop a real presence on the sidelines, and his insistence on making sure veterans like Pierce, Garnett and Williams do not get overworked is a great strategy moving forward.
This is hard to realize when it causes lost games, but the coach knows how to manage elder bodies — he was an aging player just last year, after all — and the Nets’ veterans seem to be buying in. Faith of the locker room is the most important aspect of the job that a coach can maintain, and Kidd still seems to have it even after starting off the season 5-14.
So for all the people knocking the Nets as an aging roster that was doomed from the start, it may be time to reassess and turn to a different tone. Brooklyn is now in the midst of a season-long three-game winning streak, is healthy and has found a style of play that wins basketball games against good teams. Moving forward, it would be no surprise to see them build off this momentum and go on to take control of the Atlantic Division.