Nets reward returning fans with victory
Brooklyn thrills sparse crowd with seventh straight win
The Brooklyn Nets have won a season-high seven straight games, boast three All-Stars on their roster and lead the league with an offensive efficiency of 116.7 points per 100 possessions.
But the only number that mattered at Downtown’s Barclays Center Tuesday night was 324.
That was the total of fans admitted to the red-hot Nets’ 127-118 victory over the slumping Sacramento Kings on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush as Brooklyn basketball fanatics strolled through the turnstiles for the first time since March 8, 2020.
“You can hear ‘em. I’m not gonna say it was Friday night, 18,000, but it was nice to have people in the building,” Nets rookie head coach Steve Nash said after watching his team remain unbeaten since a humblng loss at league-worst Detroit on Feb. 9.
James Harden, who was named as a reserve to the Eastern Conference All-Star team earlier in the day, joining teammates and East starters Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, again led the way for Brooklyn although he had plenty of help from veteran guard Bruce Brown.
Harden finished with his sixth triple-double in 19 games since arriving in Brooklyn last month.
Fresh off being added to the All-Star team and getting named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the second time as a Net, Harden had 29 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists as Brooklyn needed a big fourth quarter from Brown to hold off the Kings, who lost their eighth in a row.
With Durant nursing a hamstring strain for the fifth straight game, Irving scored 21 points, but it was Brown who sent the small, but throaty crowd home happy by scoring 13 of his career-best 29 points in the final period.
“It might have been that Pistons game, it’s not one thing (in) particular,” Harden said of Brooklyn’s longest winning streak since Dec. 7-19, 2018.
“It might just be we’re tired of losing, let’s start winning by any means necessary whatever it takes. Each guy has been locked in.”
So were the Brooklyn faithful, who waited nearly a full calendar year to see their Nets in the flesh again.
Though the crowd failed to fill the arena with anything resembling a continual buzz, it did encourage Brooklyn players throughout the evening.
“I thought it gave us a little bit more life and hopefully it’s safe and just the beginning of bringing in fans,” noted Nash. “Little things like that give the players a boost. It’s been a difficult year, and as long as we can do it safely it’s exciting for everyone.”
Every Nets fan who entered the arena had to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test administered within the previous three days.
The crowd was also socially distanced throughout the lower bowl of Barclays, which normally holds as many as 17,732.
Joe Harris, the longest-tenured Net, scored 18 points and DeAndre Jordan added 10 for Brooklyn, which will be right back at Barclays with fans in attendance Thursday night vs. Orlando.
“Just having somebody in there to cheer you on is better than nothing,” Harris said.
“So, it was definitely nice even though 300 is not a lot in the big arena. But it’s still a better feel than the empty ones.”
Even more so when the end result is another Brooklyn victory.
NOTHING BUT NET: Though he wasn’t selected to his customary starting spot, Harden was named an All-Star for the ninth time in his career, meaning he’ll be in Atlanta alongside Durant and Irving on March 7. The league leader in assists, Harden has not only served as a catalyst for Brooklyn’s rise in the East standings, where they are just one-half game behind first-place Philadelphia, but he is also eager to keep the winning streak going, no matter the opponent. “I think for us, we can’t worry about what happened two weeks ago or our mindset. I think now we’re in a whole different mindset,” he said. “We’ve just got to stay that way. I think we don’t look at the names on the jersey, we look at ourselves and figure out how can we be great every single night.” … The Nets made some roster moved Tuesday, requesting waivers on swingman Andre Roberson, veteran guard Iman Shumpert and forward Noah Vonleh. Roberson was originally signed by Brooklyn on Feb. 16, logging 22 minutes across two games. Shumpert signed with the Nets on Jan. 30, playing six minutes in one game. Vonleh was signed by Brooklyn on Feb. 8, seeing action in 11 minutes over four games.
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