The Nets had they agreed was their best game of the season Wednesday night at TD Garden, blowing out the Celtics in front of a sellout crowd of 19,156. Although Boston delivered a late punch in the third quarter, Brooklyn ran away with it in the final period for the second wire-to-wire blowout of their young season.
“Yeah definitely,” said James Harden on whether the win was their most complete game of the young season. “So far, yeah. It’s only been 20 games or something, but yeah. And we can continue to build on this. We just got to continue to get better. Continue to keep growing, find things that work, find things that don’t work on both ends and keep pushing.”
The victory on Thanksgiving eve extended the Nets’ winning streak to four games, and their 12th win in their last 14 contests. Although Brooklyn (14-5) is now 3-5 against teams over .500 but still remains on top, holding a two-game lead in the Eastern Conference standings, an identity is forming within their group.
“I feel like we have our identity,” Durant said. “We know what type of team we want to be and we know the formula for us to play well.”
“I think our team is on his journey and path to find an identity and tonight was a step in that direction,” Nash said. “For us, it’s about building and growing. We want to win games, but we also want to grow, we want to improve and try to find an identity.”
There is no secret Brooklyn is playing the long game, collectively forging chemistry and continuity among each other and through different lineups in hopes of presenting a well-tuned final product by the postseason. As winning is following the Nets strategy, communication within the roster is slowly evolving as well.
“One of the quietest teams I’ve ever been around, but they are starting to come out of their shell a little bit,” Steve Nash, who played 18 years in the NBA, said. “Tonight was a bit more talkative and the spirit is growing, but we’re not a loud group. The spirit is growing and the guys are starting to come together, finding that understanding of one another and the joy of playing together. As coaches, that’s what we want them to have fun out there, competing and playing for each other. That was on display as well tonight.”
“One thing about it is that we got a professional group,” said Harden when asked about the Nets being a quiet team. “They come in and they work. We try to do the game plan and we did get it in, but just trying to get a little more personality out of them. Trying to get a little more communication out of them; even off the court. I think that goes a long way. It’s still early, but I feel like I’m overly-talking sometimes. We got a good group. That’s all I can say.”
With 19 games in the record books, Brooklyn is trying to overcome the loss of Kyrie Irving by committee. Despite the shooting struggles of Blake Griffin — who didn’t play in Wednesday’s win over the Celtics and is shooting 16.1 percent from 3-point range this season — and key injuries to Joe Harris (left ankle sprain), Bruce Brown (left hamstring tightness) and Nic Claxton (non-Covid related illness), Brooklyn has embraced their next-man-up mantra. There is, players and coach agree, also a growing “joy” within the group.
“It feels really good, honestly. There’s joy. There’s excitement and people feel good and confident to go out there and do their job and know what they’re supposed to be doing night in and night out,” Harden noted. “Obviously missing Bruce [Brown], Joe [Harris], and Clax [Claxton] has been difficult but guys are stepping up. James [Johnson] has been in there. Sap [Paul Millsap] has been in there. Cam [Thomas] has been playing really good over these last few games, so it’s definitely going to take a collective effort, but we’re in a good place right now.”
How good will be determined a stretch of games beginning with the red-hot Suns on Saturday followed by a week of games against the archrival Knicks, the rising Timberwolves and second place Bulls.