Nets bounce back with rout of Pacers
Irving scores 35 points as Brooklyn ends three-game slide
First, the Nets found out that they would be welcoming their fans back to Downtown’s Barclays Center later this month.
Then, they went out and played as if they were in front of a sellout crowd against the NBA’s best team.
Called out by their rookie head coach for playing without the requisite energy during a loss at league-worst Detroit on Tuesday, the Nets heeded Steve Nash’s message during Wednesday night’s 104-94 thumping of the visiting Indiana Pacers on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.
“I thought tonight they were outstanding with their approach,” Nash said after Brooklyn snapped a season-high three-game losing streak by stifling Indiana’s offense, limiting the Pacers to 30 first-half points en route to a 32-point lead at intermission.
“And you could tell from the start, they were locked in, and when they are locked in, you see what they’re capable of.”
The much-needed victory came hours after Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that Barclays Center would re-open to fans, albeit at only 10 percent capacity due to COVID-19 safety protocols, beginning Feb. 23, when the Nets host the Sacramento Kings.
“Obviously 10 percent isn’t a packed house, but I think it is a little boost and I think it can help at least players enjoy the experience a little more and make the season a little less monotonous,” Nash ceded.
Brooklyn (15-12) improved to 11-5 at home behind 35 points and eight assists from Kyrie Irving.
James Harden added 19 points and 11 helpers, Joe Harris poured in 17 points and DeAndre Jordan had 12 points and 13 boards for the Nets, who yielded less than 100 points for the first time since Jan. 25 vs. Miami en route to handing Indiana (12-13) its fourth straight defeat.
“We all knew that we had to come out and play great defense against these guys,” noted Jordan.
“We just wanted to be physical and just come out and show our presence defensively first, and our offense will take care of itself.”
Brooklyn will get a two-day breather before embarking on a season-high five-game road trip beginning Saturday night against the Golden State Warriors.
Kevin Durant, who has missed the last three games while following protocols after being in contact with a team employee who tested positive for the coronavirus, should be back in action against his former teammates.
Durant won two NBA titles, taking Most Valuable Player honors both times, and helped the Warriors reach the 2019 Finals against Toronto before suffering an Achilles tear during Game 5 of that series, which Golden State eventually lost.
He signed with Brooklyn later that summer, but sat out all of last season while recovering from the gruesome injury.
“I think we build a lot of team bonding on trips like this, a lot of camaraderie, whether it’s eating together, playing cards, hanging out,” said Jordan of the upcoming trip, which also includes stops in Sacramento, Phoenix and both Los Angeles franchises.
“That’s gonna help us on the floor, being able to just build that chemistry with guys and obviously once we get Kevin back from his timeout we’ll incorporate,” he added. “But I think this road trip will be good for us.”
So apparently were Nash’s well-time words.
As a coaching neophyte in charge of a star-studded roster with championship expecations, Nash had refrained from scolding his squad before Tuesday’s dismal effort in Detroit.
The fact that the Nets responded with one of their best defensive performances of the season 24 hours after being torched for 38 first-quarter points in Motown proves that Nash’s voice is resonating with his players.
“We just got after it. We’re all on the same page from the beginning of the game,” said Harden.
“That first five and even the guys that came off the bench knew the game plan, executed the game plan and our results showed.”
Whether they continue to play a full 48 minutes on both ends of the floor or not, the Nets won’t just have to deal with Nash when they get back to Brooklyn in two weeks.
If their effort isn’t quite up to par, the Nets will hear it from their small but throaty crowd.
Nothing But Net: The Nets enjoyed a reunion with former teammate Caris LeVert, who was traded to Indiana in the blockbuster deal that brought Harden to Brooklyn last month. LeVert, who had surgery to remove a cancerous growth on his kidney shortly after the trade was completed, received a video tribute at Barclays between the first and second quarters. LeVert is working out with the team again and is working his way back, according to Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren. … Barclays Center will employ robust health and safety protocols that have been developed in coordination with the New York State Department of Health, the National Basketball Association and the Global Biorisk Advisory Council, the Nets announced Wednesday. These protocols include: a negative PCR test for all patrons, administered within 72 hours in advance of the game; mandatory temperature checks; social distancing and use of face masks; and thorough cleaning and sanitation procedures. “To help further ensure the safety of Barclays Center fans and employees, the venue will also continue to provide COVID-19 testing to all arena employees prior to each game,” read a team-issued release.
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