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Was Win Over The Spurs A Turning Point For The Nets?

When teams look back on seasons, they point to signature wins or turning points. Was Brooklyn’s win over the Spurs that turning point?

Brooklyn Nets

BROOKLYN, NY – On Sunday Lionel Hollins was not shy about accurately accusing the Nets of giving “part-time” effort.

Three days later, he was beaming at the sight of his three max players racing to the ground in a wild scramble for possession in the final seconds of an overtime Wednesday against the defending champion Spurs, who won eight in a row and had the previous night off.

When teams look back on seasons, they point to signature wins or turning points.

Perhaps the sight of Brook Lopez, Deron Williams, and Joe Johnson on the floor might be just that for the Nets, who had been inconsistent at best in terms of effort and hustle plays. Their 95-93 victory ended with nearly $60 million of the league’s most expensive team giving beyond extra effort to prevent the Spurs from retaining possession with two-tenths of a second left.

It is one thing to beat the Knicks, almost everyone does these days. How the Nets played in that five-point win was nice as they staved off a furious comeback but it would have meant little if Wednesday was a loss of any form.

The Nets are 8-9 and that looks significantly better than being 6-11. That’s what they were facing after Sunday’s hideous 18-point loss to the Chicago Bulls, who were on the final day of their annual lengthy road trip.

It was an appropriate ending to a month that has seen the normally reserved for Johnson to call out the team for being selfish, doing so even after a win. It was also a month that saw Hollins bench Lopez for doing the opposite of what he did Wednesday and that was rebound (15 rebounds) and give maximum effort.

“I don’t want to get into what we said,” Hollins said. “But I just think that guys’ minds are freer, they are pulling more together. They are competing more for each other.”

The Nets didn’t look competitive in their last loss of November and during that initial month of Hollins, some of the same traits as previous years took shape. Among those were hanging their heads when shots don’t fall and directly leading to low effort on the other end.

Naturally that brought the question of identity or lack of it.

Instead the identity Wednesday was of one that has three max players diving for a loose ball, doing anything it took to win a game. And that meant not backing down in the face of adversity, which for the second time in 24 hours struck in the fourth quarter.

Rather than allowing defeat to happen, all three made plays. Lopez hit the key 20-footer that he may have called “bank” on, Johnson had the go-ahead basket in overtime and Williams was steady while knocking down some clutch shots.

“It’s good that we prevailed,” Lopez said. “We fought through it. Earlier in the season, I don’t know if we get back from that.”

The next three games against Atlanta, Cleveland and Chicago will offer the Nets prime opportunities to follow up on their “signature” win. Win all those and maybe they’re on to something but lose all three, it’s another step back and more talking about the process and finding ways to get better.

“I think Brooklyn can be a helluva team,” Gregg Popovich said. “As the year goes on Brooklyn is going to be a monster.”

Last year the Nets lost 21 of 31 before becoming a monster over the final three months. That had a jumping off point in Oklahoma City that people look back on fondly as the turning point.

By then the players had decided enough is enough. Now almost a year later, it might have happened again with the max effort from the three max players leading the way.

Just like last year, they dug in, didn’t let go of the rope and showed any other coach-speak trait.

“I hope we can make this the start of something,” Johnson said. “We had a big win yesterday over in Manhattan against the Knicks and then come back here tonight against the defending champions on a back-to-back — that was big. So I thought we showed a lot of guts, man, especially going to overtime and still pulling it out.”

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