BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Christmas came a few days early for the Nets this year.
Although Brooklyn’s seven-game win streak came to an end just two days back, they gifted themselves with a 111-103 victory over the Phoenix Suns (8-26), Sunday evening.
The Nets have won eight of the last nine and improved to 16-19 on the season. They took advantage of the tired Suns, who played the second night of a back-to-back after losing a triple overtime ordeal on Saturday night. Phoenix has the NBA’s worst record, at 8-26.
“I think we’re going up, going in the right direction. Bumps and bruises down the road and I feel like every team goes through that,” D’Angelo Russell said after the game. “But as much as we can keep building off our good wins, out losses, whatever it may be – taking something from it and moving forward,”
Some questioned how the Nets might respond to a loss since Saturday was their first in over two weeks. But the Nets take nobody lightly, and you can make a case that this would have been a closer game —or worse— one season back.
But they’re deeper this year and it starts with second-round pick, Rodions Kurucs. Kurucs went off for 16 points and a career-high 10 rebounds. He posted a career-high 24 points against the Pacers on Saturday.
“I’m just playing basketball. I was hungry, I didn’t play (in) three years, now I’m enjoying it,” Kurucs said afterwards.
“We support each other, we got each other’s backs, in the locker room we talk about the game, about everything. The guys are helping me, JD (Jared Dudley) is helping me a lot, talking to me and explaining things to me, what I have to do,” he added.
Kenny Atkinson also assigned Kurucs to cover Booker in the second half, just as he did Friday when he had had Kurucs cover Victor Oladipo.
“We put Rodions on Booker. This guy was playing on Barcelona last year in Europe, 20 years old. I’m really excited about his defensive potential,” Atkinson said. “He did some good things out there, his length and athleticism and, quite honestly, how hard he plays.”
There was never really any doubt with this game. The Nets led by seven at half, but turned the jets on in the third quarter.
It started with a magnificent pass from Russell to the baseline cutting Kurucs who then slammed it home. On the ensuing possession, Jared Dudley knocked down his second three of the night and capped off a 13-0 run, giving Brooklyn a 17-point lead entering the fourth.
The Suns were noticeably exhausted and the Nets never looked back.
Much like their play during the win streak, Brooklyn won this game behind another balanced attack. They had six players in double figures with 47 points coming off the bench.
Both teams shot a little better than 47 percent from the field, but the Nets shot 10-of-27 from three with a differential of eight on the glass. Phoenix finished just 3-of-17 from deep, perhaps a sign of tired legs.
First overall pick DeAndre Ayton went off for 26 points and 18 rebounds, followed by Devin Booker who had 25 points and nine assists.
To close out the night, “The Block” chanted, “We ain’t tanking!”
… They got that right.
Entering Sunday’s game, the Brooklyn Nets stood 2.5 games back from the sixth seed (Charlotte), two back from the seventh seed (Detroit) and 1.5 back from the eighth seed (Miami). But after the win, the Nets are in ninth place in the East, ONE game out of the playoffs.
RODI IS ROLLIN’… BUT WHY?
Kurucs was asked post-game what the adjustment has been like to the NBA.
“It’s up and down, running, it’s fast and more open. You have so much space, in Europe it’s tight and defense is harder. It’s harder to beat a guy one-on-one, but it’s more team basketball there – here is also team basketball, but it’s more individual basketball too. I mean for me, it’s not tough. But sometimes American players when they go to Euroleague it’s harder for them to adjust because it’s harder to play there. Like here, it’s easy for me, I like this kind of basketball.”
Think confidence is an issue?
YOU MAY NOT REALIZE IT BUT…
Nets starting line-up averages 22 years, 266 days. When they line up vs. the young Phoenix Suns Sunday evening, they’ll be up against one of the few NBA teams that are younger … by 138 days
— NetsDaily.com (@NetsDaily) December 23, 2018
Theo Pinson got some late burn, making his third NBA appearance this season. He played one minute and missed a long three. Pinson got his opportunity because four of his teammates were out: Allen Crabbe (knee); Treveon Graham (hamstring); Dzazan Musa (shoulder) and Cavis LeVert (leg).
For a different perspective, head on over to the Bright Side of the Sun, our Suns sister site on SB Nation.
The Nets and Hornets will do a home-and-home on Wednesday and then on Saturday.
From everybody at NetsDaily, we’d like to wish you all a very Happy Holiday!