The Brooklyn Nets and their fans haven’t had a lot to cheer about over the last month-plus. But Wednesday’s come from behind win over the New York Knicks not only gave them more hope, it was a test of the team’s character.
And boy did they pass the test in their 111-106 win over the Knicks.
Down 21 after the first half, and trailing at one point by 28, the Nets could have easily let the game go knowing that they were just a day away from the NBA All-Star break. Still down Kevin Durant, Joe Harris and Ben Simmons, there were plenty of excuses for why Wednesday night could have gone the route it appeared to be headed.
[READ: Kevin Durant Injury update: Nets superstar not guaranteed to return right after all-star break]
Instead, Nets coach Steve Nash, who at times has been criticized for how he’s managed the team, challenged his guys to stay with it. In turn, Brooklyn erased the double-digit lead and finally took control late in the fourth quarter to hand their crosstown rival one of its most embarrassing defeats of the year.
“It was tough at the half because largely I thought they played the right way,” Nash said. “The Knicks made everything for long stretches and we just couldn’t get their hands off of us. Maybe they were playing superphysical and as it happens sometimes they get away with a little more than you’d like, but that’s the nature of the game. The aggressor gets rewarded a lot of the time. Challenged them at halftime that this is a playoff-type physicality and we have to be more physical offensively.
“And we have to be more physical defensively and it’s a test of our character. Are we willing to stay in a game where we’re down big and just try to get something out of it. Obviously, they got a lot more than we bargained for out of it, but it’s down to the players. Their character, willingness to continue to listen in all our film sessions and walkthroughs, and come out ready to play even though they were down big at the half.”
Steve Nash says he challenged his players at halftime:
"We had to be more physical offensively, we had to be more physical defensively. It's a test of our character." pic.twitter.com/M3HWrYG72j
— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) February 17, 2022
The win was another critical one for the Nets, who picked up back-to-back victories for the first time since mid-January when they defeated the Washington Wizards on Jan. 19 and then the San Antonio Spurs on Jan. 21. The comeback also matched the franchise’s largest.
Cam Thomas was the one that led the charge on Wednesday night with 21 points, 16 of which came in the fourth quarter. Seth Curry’s 20 points and six threes proved once again what a valuable asset he already has become and LaMarcus Aldridge’s 19 points exemplified his importance to the Nets.
And let’s not forget the 19 rebounds and 11 points from fellow newbie Andre Drummond.
Brooklyn chipped away at the Knicks’ lead in the third quarter but still ended trailing by double digits. However, then Nets went on a 15-0 run to take a 99-97 lead and Cam Thomas iced the Knicks moments later with a dagger of a shot to put Brooklyn ahead 109-103.
Rookie Cam Thomas pulls up from 3 and SHUTS IT DOWN at MSG💯#NETSonYES pic.twitter.com/7prUEVQAyY
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) February 17, 2022
“Steve was just saying if we come out and play the right way then we’ll have a chance,” Curry said of the halftime pep talk. “More than that it’s just about establishing our style of basketball. Establishing who we’re going to be as a team and it wasn’t really about winning or losing, it was about our mindset going out there in that second half and how we were going to play. So everybody listened, took the message in and went out and played together.”
For a team still missing some of its key players, the win holds a greater significance as they head to the all-star break. While their last two wins have come against teams struggling to remain in the playoff picture, the Nets have shown the will of their character after going through plenty of adversity.
That will be critical when the stretch run of the season comes up.