So, things are a little different around Barclays Center this Friday than they were last Friday.
The Brooklyn Nets have replaced the weight of an eight-game slide with the optimism of a three-game winning streak.
It all started last Friday against the conference-leading Toronto Raptors. After one tight game after another had slipped away over a two-week stretch, the Nets came up with the big plays they needed at the end of regulation and overtime to close out the team with the NBA’s best record.
They followed up the next night with a solid win against the New York Knicks to sweep a back-to-back. Then they went down to Philadelphia and beat the conference’s No. 3 team. It’s a heady change with the Washington Wizards due at Barclays Center on Friday night
“I don’t want to get carried away,” said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson after Wednesday’s win. “Obviously we went through a tough stretch. But beating this team here, they’ve had two losses at home. I’ll even go back to the (eight) game losing streak, the fact that we had chances to win I’d say 90 percent of them just bodes well. With Caris (LeVert) being out, I think the feeling was, we’re not going to be able to compete at that high level, and it’s like, well, we keep doing it. It’s good these last three games we closed it out.”
STILL PLAYING ‘EM CLOSE
One thing that hasn’t changed over the last week in the Nets’ knack for taking things down to the wire. Seven of their eight losses in a row fell into the NBA’s definition of “clutch” games — within five points in the last five minutes. So have two of their three wins, making for nine of their last 11 games.
Up by as many as 12 points on the Sixers in the fourth quarter — and 11 with under 50 seconds to go — the Nets did let Philly get close enough that a layup with four seconds remaining cut the final margin to three points.
“We’re still a young team,” said Kenny Atkinson after the Philadelphia game. “Those pressure moments. Even defensively we had a couple screwups. We fouled shooters. Listen, we did it in practice the other day. We were fouling shooters. I just think we’re gonna keep doing it, we’re gonna keep learning from it. But again we’re a young team. We’ve got to do better in those situations, those pressure situations.”
Overall, the Nets lead the league with 18 clutch games out of their 29. The difference over the last week is that, even if the Nets haven’t been perfect down the stretch, they’ve been good enough.
“Obviously third game in a row where we played well,” said Joe Harris. “Been able to close it out down the stretch though it was a little ugly today, and the last game actually too. Sometimes you’ve got to win that way. At the end of the year all the Ws are the same. So for us just to be able to kind of execute down the stretch, close out games definitely adds another level of confidence for us.”
ED DAVIS ON DEFENSE
Ed Davis had 10 rebounds against Philadelphia on Wednesday, continuing his outstanding rebounding work. But he also delivered stand-up defense against the Sixers’ Joel Embiid, who had his way with 23 points in the first half.
Part of the solution at least, was Davis. The veteran helped limit Embiid to 10 points in the second half as the Nets, leading by one at the break, built a lead as large as 12 points in the second half as Davis played a season-high 30 minutes.
“He had, what, 23 at half and we said at halftime, the staff, we’ve got to do something different,” said Kenny Atkinson. “So we double-teamed him a couple times and the next solution was Ed and Ed did a fantastic job.”
Allen Crabbe is listed as questionable against the Wizards with a sore right knee. Crabbe scored 20 points against the Sixers on Wednesday, shooting 4-for-8 from 3-point range. Over his last 15 games, since stepping into the starting lineup on Nov. 14, Crabbe is shooting 46.5 percent from 3-point range.
ABOUT THE WIZARDS
The Nets have split their two games against the Wizards this season, with each team winning by a comfortable double-digit margin. Both games were played in Washington. The Wizards lost Dwight Howard to back surgery before the second meeting, and he remains out. Forward Otto Porter Jr. missed Wednesday’s game against the Celtics after suffering a right knee contusion on Monday against the Pacers. Washington has lost its last three games and has an 11-17 record.