Hollins humbled by Nets’ resilience
Coach Sees ‘Lights Come On’ Following Big Win in Toronto
They had plenty of reasons to give up on a season that appeared headed for certain disaster.
Whether it was injuries, players ill-fitted to the new head coach’s scheme or just plain lack of desire on the hardwood.
But to a man, the Brooklyn Nets have spent the past two weeks making positive strides in their pursuit of the franchise’s third consecutive playoff bid.
That collective effort was punctuated Wednesday night in Toronto with a 109-93 triumph over the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors in front of a sellout crowd of 19,800 at the Air Canada Centre.
“I just told the coaches, it’s very humbling to see your team start to get it,” Lionel Hollins admitted after his resilient unit’s second straight win pulled them within one-half game of Miami for the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot.
“You fight them and fight them and yell at them and coax them and hug them,” he added. “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.”
Following back-to-back blowout losses by a combined 74 points on a recent West Coast swing, the Nets appeared more likely to pack it in for the year than to make a push for the playoffs.
Second-year center Mason Plumlee admitted that the team’s collective effort was lacking, $98 million point guard Deron Williams was sidelined with a rib injury and Brooklyn went winless at the Barclays Center for the entire month of January.
With reports circling that Hollins’ job performance was being “re-assessed” by upper management, and Williams and Lopez constantly getting mentioned in trade rumors, the Nets (20-28) seemed headed for reconstruction in Season Three here in our fair borough.
But a pair of narrow defeats, one to the conference-leading Hawks and another to these very same Raptors in Brooklyn last Friday, apparently gave the Nets the spark they needed to go on their modest two-game win streak.
A run they hope to extend Friday night against the visiting East River rival Knicks in what will be their final home contest of the month.
“This is the fun part of the season, the unknown,” noted Jarrett Jack, who led the Nets (20-28) with 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting Wednesday.
“You never know when all those hours of practice, or film sessions, when are they really going to come together and materialize and you’re going to hit that stride, when you’re going to start just playing consistent positive basketball. Hopefully this is that stride for us.”
Alan Anderson scored 22 points, Joe Johnson had 12 and Williams finished with 11 points and six assists off the bench for Brooklyn, which handed Toronto its first loss in 10 games against Atlantic Division opponents.
Following Friday’s showdown with the Knicks, the Nets will play eight consecutive road games – a trip that will be briefly interrupted by the NBA’s annual All-Star Weekend, which will be split between the Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden from Feb. 13-15.
That brutal road stretch may very well determine whether Brooklyn returns home March 2 to take on Golden State with a legitimate chance to earn another playoff berth or face yet another offseason of uncertainty regarding their roster and head-coaching position.
“I think our confidence has been improving game after game,” Nets center Brook Lopez said. “We have a different energy about us. I think it’s just come in the past few games. We all know what we’re capable of all season. We have great individual parts. It’s matter of us getting used to each other.”
Nothing But Net: Brooklyn advance scout Jim Sann, who suffered a minor heart attack during the team’s practice Sunday, returned home from the hospital on Wednesday. … The Nets and Raptors, who staged an epic seven-game first-round playoff series last year, have split 76 regular-season meetings. … Brooklyn’s epic road trip will feature visits to Washington (Saturday), Milwaukee (Monday), Memphis (Tuesday), Los Angeles (Feb. 20), Denver (Feb. 23), New Orleans (Feb. 25), Houston (Feb. 27) and Dallas (Feb. 28). … As part of the upcoming All-Star Weekend festivities, the Barclays Center and Levy Restaurants, the venue’s food and beverage partner, are launching the first-ever All-Star Taste food program that will feature savory classic dishes inspired by NBA cities and served at arenas throughout the league. All-Star Taste is an extension of the renowned BrooklynTaste food program, which features 55 popular local Brooklyn restaurants at the arena. Created by top Levy chefs, All-Star Taste will be served at Barclays Center during the 2015 All-Star events on Feb. 13-15.
Fans will have two opportunities to preview the All-Star Taste menu. Barclays Center will debut the full menu during Friday’s game against the Knicks. On Monday, fans will get to visit the 2015 All-Star Taste Truck, which will bring a sampling of the All-Star eats to select locations around the city, including Times Square. “We are excited to launch the first-ever All-Star Taste, a unique culinary program that is expanding on the All-Star experience like never before,” said Brett Yormark, CEO of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center. “The unparalleled BrooklynTaste was developed through our partnership with Levy and we are raising the bar again by bringing national culinary specialties together at Barclays Center.”
Leave a Comment
Leave a Comment