Jim Mancari, ContributorDeja vu all over again.
Let’s flashback to last season. The middling Brooklyn Nets went into San Antonio on Dec. 31, 2012 and got totally embarrassed by the Spurs by a score of 104-73 – a 31-point loss. In their next game on Jan. 2, 2013, the Nets were not expected to do much in Oklahoma City, against a Thunder team that had won 12 straight home games.
However, Brooklyn opened a 23-point lead, and despite a furious Thunder comeback to tie the game with seven minutes to play, the Nets orchestrated a 10-1 late run to gain an improbable 110-93 victory.
In that game, Joe Johnson scored 33 points, and Deron Williams added 19 points (3-of-4 shooting from downtown) and 13 assists. For OKC, Kevin Durant poured in 27 points, while Russell Westbrook had 26.
That win brought the Nets’ record to 17-15.
So this season, after a pretty dismal start, the Nets headed to San Antonio to take on the Spurs for another New Years Eve tilt. The score might have been a bit closer at 113-92, but the Spurs dominated this game, leading by as many as 32 at one point. Brooklyn was already down double-digits just four and half minutes into the game.
Coincidentally, the team’s next game was in Oklahoma City against the Thunder on Jan. 2, 2014 – last night. And again, conventional wisdom said the Nets really didn’t have much of a chance going into this game, even with Westbrook sidelined.
Turnovers plagued the Nets leading to a 16-point deficit in the third quarter. But the team began to chip away, and Williams delivered a momentum shifter after a steal and buzzer-beating three-pointer to close out the third. Brooklyn went on to outscore the Thunder 29-16 in the fourth quarter and got the 95-93 victory thanks to Johnson’s buzzer-beating floater.
It was the Nets’ first win this season (1-19) after trailing going into the fourth quarter. The Nets held the Thunder to a season-low 34 second-half points. Williams was at it again, as he scored 29 points on 10-of-17 shooting and drained six three-pointers. The win brings the Nets to 11-21 – 10 games under .500.
The circumstances from this season are certainly different than last season. Brook Lopez is done for the year, and the team’s chemistry with so many new faces has yet to develop. But after the Thunder road win last year, the Nets rattled off six straight wins and a streak of nine wins in 10 games, including victories against the Pacers, Knicks and Hawks.
This year, the Nets now return home for four straight games against the Cavaliers, Hawks, Warriors and Heat. The first two are certainly winnable games, but the next two will be a challenge. Winning six straight after the Thunder win like last year might be a tall order, but maybe if the Nets can take three of the four – or even split – this team could maybe start turning this season around.
Even without Lopez, the team is deep, and that’s aided by Andrei Kirlenko’s retun. That’s good, because it will take a complete team effort every night for Brooklyn to consistently earn wins. But if they can get healthy, this win could once again be the springboard the Nets need.