For most of the season the Brooklyn Nets looked like tourists trying to navigate their way through a foreign country without a map.
But now they’ve discovered their identity and look anything but lost.
With Brook Lopez out for the season and Deron Williams sidelined the previous two games with an ankle injury, the Nets have suddenly committed to being a hard-nosed defensive group.
The proof is in the pudding. Entering Wednesday night’s matchup with the red-hot Golden State Warriors, who arrived to Brooklyn riding a 10-game winning streak, Jason Kidd’s squad had allowed an average of only 87 points over their last three games.
And although it wasn’t a total of under 90 points given up to the young guns from the Bay Area, the Nets buckled down and held the league’s eighth-highest scoring team to just 98 points on the night en route to a 102-98 victory.
A defensive force is what Brooklyn must choose to be for the remainder of the season. Even when Williams is available, it’s always a mystery as to how the Nets will perform in terms of scoring the basketball. Strong defensive effort and intensity, however, can be a near constant so long as reserve forward Andrei Kirilenko remains healthy.
It’s no coincidence that the Nets have won four consecutive games based mostly on defense after the return five games ago of one of the league’s best defenders. That isn’t to say that Kirilenko deserves all of the credit for Brooklyn’s new-found success, but he’s certainly made a day-and-night difference with his presence.
With him around, the Nets look as sure of themselves as they have all season.