Have The Brooklyn Nets Turned The Corner?


The Brooklyn Nets were in a state of disarray after losing back-to-back games to the Clippers and Jazz by 35 points, that was only the 5th time in NBA history that such a feat occurred. The future looked even more bleak for the Nets with the Hawks, Raptors, Clippers and Raptors again next on their schedule, all playoff teams and all teams that have the ability to beat Brooklyn.

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The Nets went into Atlanta and battled with a red-hot Hawks team for 48 minutes, but in the end the Hawks were too much for Brooklyn too handle. Although it was a loss, it gave the Nets confidence heading into their next game against the Toronto Raptors. The Nets were down by double-digits in the second half against the Raptors, but they battled back and were a Brook Lopez bucket away from handing their division rival Raptors a loss. Lopez missed at the buzzer, the game went into overtime and the Raptors beat the Nets in a thriller at Barclays Center.

It was two losses, but they were confidence builders for the Nets and a sense of pride and togetherness was starting to form amongst the group. The Nets were on the verge of suffering yet another loss on Monday against the Los Angeles Clippers. This loss would surely sting because it would be the third consecutive game that the Nets hung around against a high caliber opponent and had nothing to show for it. The Nets were down eight with a little over a minute to play, the Clippers took there foot off of the gas and Brooklyn never looked back.

The Nets stormed back to win the game against the Clippers and Jarrett Jack was the hero, hitting the game-winning shot. The Nets next game was on Wednesday in Toronto against the Raptors and the Nets wanted revenge on the team that just escaped Barclays Center with a win that the Nets felt they should’ve had. The Nets beat the Raptors to get their second straight win and Brooklyn pulled away from Toronto in the fourth quarter to ensure that there would be no drama to end this game.

Nets assistant coach Jim Sann suffered a heart attack right on the court during a Nets practice and trainer of the year Tim Walsh and the rest of the Nets training staff saved Sann’s life and fortunately Sann is expected to make a full recovery. Sann’s life threatening encounter has had a big impact on this Nets team and Kevin Garnett says it’s a big reason why the Nets have played such good basketball.

The Nets have been fortunate to be in a weak Eastern Conference so at this moment they are tied for eighth in the East and if they can continue to play at this level for the remainder of the season they can continue to climb up in the standings. One thing that has remained consistent throughout the season so far has been the honesty of Lionel Hollins after games. Hollins isn’t afraid to call out his players and he isn’t afraid to praise his players. Hollins is an old-school coach and that is a rare breed in the current NBA, aside from Gregg Popovich and Tom Thibodeau there aren’t many other coaches who tell it like it is to the media.

After Jarrett Jack hit a huge three to put the Nets up by four with 14 seconds left the Nets bench went crazy and nobody was more excited than coach Hollins. Hollins pumped his fist in the air and screamed in exhilaration, it was the first time all season that Hollins showed intense, positive emotion during a game and that can signify that things are coming together for the Nets and Hollins senses it.

“I just told the coaches, it’s very humbling to see your team start to get it. You fight them and fight them and yell at them and coax them and hug them, you’re doing all kinds of stuff and all of a sudden the lights come on. And they start playing for each other and believing in each other.” -Hollins after the Nets win over the Raptors on Wednesday

Another sign of a team starting to turn the corner is keeping things in perspective. After an emotional win over their crosstown rival New York Knicks, Brooklyn suffered a 37 point beat down to the Washington Wizards who were desperate for a win after dropping five games in a row. Instead of pointing fingers and panicking after the game the Nets did the opposite, they were already focused on forgetting that game and focusing on their next game. It was a tough game to play after an emotional game the night before and Hollins sensed that it would be a long game before it even started. “I sensed in the locker room before the game that we didn’t have energy and carried over into the start of the game.” Hollins said.

Despite that loss to the Wizards, Brooklyn hasn’t lost its confidence that it has gained from their recent stretch of outstanding play and strangely enough a guy who came into the team expecting to be a backup has been Brooklyn’s best player. Jarrett Jack has done it all for the Nets since being inserted into the starting lineup. Jack has played a lot of minutes, hit clutch shots, directed the offense and most importantly he has been a leader. In his last 10 games, Jack is averaging 17.1 points and 7.7 assists per game and Jack has shown no signs of cooling off.

Another guy who has strived in a newly defined role has been Brook Lopez. Lopez has come off of the bench for Brooklyn and he has played exceptionally well. The other night, Lopez became joined Kevin McHale as the only other player to record 20 plus points and 6 plus blocks multiple times off of the bench in a season. Lopez is a dominant low-post presence and having him come off of the bench adds a whole other dynamic to Brooklyn’s offense.

The Nets have won three of their last four games and the next game they will play is on Monday in Milwaukee against a familiar foe Jason Kidd and his Bucks. Coach Hollins is humbled that his team is starting to buy into his system and with two more games remaining before the All Star break the Nets will look to go into the break with some momentum. The Nets have a history of starting the season off sluggishly then having a terrific end to the season and we’ll soon find out if history will repeat itself.

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