For the first time in 352 days, the Nets hosted real fans live at the Barclays Center. And they were not disappointed.
Brooklyn earned a 127-118 victory over Sacramento, a seventh in a row, the league’s highest, and a tryout in a cheat game that probably wouldn’t have happened a month ago.
“Certainly that is a fair statement. We have grown, we have united much more and you can feel the energy between the players. The bond is formed, ”said coach Steve Nash. “That is something you have to invest in every day. … The guys are investing that energy and support with each other every night. And that makes you hard to beat. “
They were tough enough on Tuesday. Brooklyn (21-12) walked away in the final stages of the fourth quarter, using a 14-1 thunderbolt to turn a one-point bite into another victory, and this one had added significance.
With the Empire State Building lit up in black and white celebrating the occasion, the Nets brought fans to Barclays for the first time since March 8, 2020. That seemed like a lifetime ago, with Jacque Vaughn still acting coach Kevin Durant. not adapted yet. for Brooklyn, and James Harden was still hard at work in Houston.
On Tuesday, it was a dominant Harden who led the way with another triple-double (29 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds). They also got an unexpected 29 from defensive-minded Bruce Brown, who had consecutive 3s to cap the run at 14-1.
“It feels good. It gives us more confidence than we already had,” Brown said. “So we have to keep pushing and try to get more wins.”
Brooklyn’s defense was poor, allowing the Kings to shoot 51.2 percent behind De’Aaron Fox (27 points) and Tyrese Haliburton (23). But even without Durant, Jeff Green or Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, the Nets did enough to win and stay within the middlegame of the East-leading 76ers.
Brooklyn has the best record in the NBA against teams of .500 or higher, with a stellar 12-2. But the Nets’ 8-10 mark against losing foes arriving Tuesday showed why this was a trap, one they might not have avoided prior to this recent trade.
After Fox hit a 3-pointer with 7:07 left, the Nets were clinging to a 110-109 lead that was tenuous at best. But that’s when they took control, and surprisingly, Brown led the way.
“He’s a guy who just goes out there and competes with his butt every night and great things happen to him,” Harden said. “He sets up screens and rolls to the basket, he’s an incredible cutter and he showed us that he’s capable of knocking down the 3-ball. Then he does it all. He works his butt and when you work your tail and you keep grinding and pushing, good things happen. … I’m proud of him.”
Brown hit two consecutive 3-pointers, the second filling the mat to 124-110 with 3:05 left. After being criticized by the Kings bench, he celebrated with a bit of shimmy and the Nets sailed to victory.
“At first they left me in transition, James was finding me. So once you see them come in, you feel good, “said Brown, adding about his vibe:” They were talking like crazy, and it was my second [3-pointer] so you know how banks work when you are not filming well, you know what they say. So I had to do something. “
What he did was seal the game. A Nets team that allowed 66.7 percent shooting in the second quarter buckled up to hold Sacramento to just 35 percent in the crucial quarter.
“Defense in the fourth quarter [was the key]. We turned it up, kept it at 22. We had a couple of late buckets and put it to sleep, so I was proud of that, ”Nash said. “I thought everyone contributed. And I thought this is a cheat game.
“You have a winning streak on the west coast, you fly back across the country, you acclimatize with family and friends, then time zone … and you play a team that you beat a week ago. It is a cheat game. So I was proud of the approach. It wasn’t always pretty, but they wanted to win and they had saves when they needed them. “