3. Nets have made a 180-degree turnaround
For the first 26 games this season, the Brooklyn Nets were one of those teams for which no lead was every quite safe enough.
In 16 of those first 26 games, the Nets played well enough to take double-digit leads over their opponents. But finishing those games? That was a different matter altogether.
Brooklyn won just eight of those 16 games in which they held those large leads, culminating with dropping four straight decisions in games in which they led by at least 10 points during an overall eight-game losing skid in late November and early December.
From Nov. 25 through Dec. 5, the Nets coughed up a 20-point lead against the Philadelphia 76ers, an 11-point bulge against the Utah Jazz, a 10-point edge over the Memphis Grizzlies and, finally, a 23-point lead to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Dec. 5.
That loss to the Thunder left Brooklyn at 8-18 and their season on life support.
Since then, they’ve become the team for which no deficit is too big for them to overcome as well as a team that knows how to finish an opponent when they have them on the ropes.
The Nets have won their last 14 games in which they’ve led by at least 10 points. And after dropping 16 of the first 17 games in which they trailed by at least that margin, Brooklyn has won three of the last four times they’ve fallen that far behind.
That includes both games on the just-completed two-game road trip, beating the Houston Rockets in overtime after trailing by as much as 14 points and then topping the Orlando Magic Friday night after being down by 21.
Not coincidentally, Brooklyn is 16-5 since Dec. 7, when they snapped the eight-game slide with an overtime victory over the Toronto Raptors.
Since the loss to Oklahoma City, the Nets have climbed all the way from 13th place in the Eastern Conference to sixth. They’re over .500 for the first time all season following the win over Orlando on Friday.
The Nets are just four wins shy of matching last season’s total of 28 victories and we’re still a month away from the All-Star Game.
Given that injured Caris LeVert is participating in shoot-arounds a little more than two months removed from a gruesome dislocation of his right foot, Brooklyn should get a huge shot in the arm when he is able to return.
LeVert was the Nets’ leading scorer before he was injured and they’ve been able to turn the season around even with him in street clothes on the bench. Getting him back down the stretch could turn this into a very special finish in Brooklyn.