Strong road trip sees Nets top the East, showdown with Warriors looms

Patty Mills dropped a career-high nine three point buckets in the Brooklyn Nets' 120-96 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Nov. 14, 2021.
Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Suddenly, the Brooklyn Nets look like the powerhouse they were predicted to be going into the 2021-22 campaign.

Brooklyn’s 120-96 rout of the Oklahoma City Thunder marked their third straight win, wrapping up their longest road trip of the season with five wins out of six games, and eight wins out of their last nine overall. They’ve vaulted to the top of the Eastern Conference standings, in a virtual tie with the Washington Wizards, and have the second-most wins in the league, behind only the Golden State Warriors, with a little less than 20% of the season in the books.

Speaking of those Warriors, the Nets are due to face Stephon Curry and his teammates from the West Coast Tuesday night at the Barclays Center, and it’s beginning to look like a potential preview of an NBA Finals showdown to come next spring.

But after dropping 33 points in Brooklyn’s victory over the Thunder Sunday, Kevin Durant — who won a title with Curry and the Warriors — tried to tamp down the hype.

“It’s another game. Obviously, they’re the best team int he league and playing at an elite level,” Durant said at the post-game press conference Nov. 14. “But you know, this is a regular season game, you know? we obviously want to go out there and win in front of our home crowd, but we’re not going to put too much pressure on ourselves.”

While all the focus of the Nets tends to focus on the Big Two combo of Durant and James Harden, Patty Mills continues to play a major role as a solid presence in the back court.

Mills picked up 29 points in Sunday night’s victory, nailing a career-high nine three-point buckets. He remarked that the Nets adjusted to the Thunder defense well, enabling him to get open shots and follow the most basic objective in basketball, as a close friend of his put it.

“For me, the mindset, I always think about one of my closest friends who doesn’t know a lot about basketball, but he always keeps it simple and says, ‘Just put the ball in the basket,'” Mills said. “That’s what I remembered before the game tonight, and it’s amazing because it’s as simple as that sometimes.”

The club’s outstanding road trip, in which the offense and defense have continued to improve game after game, is a sure sign that the Nets coming together and gathering momentum, according to Harden.

“We’re coming together, and it feels good. It feels more fluent, it feels like it should,” Harden said. “Obviously we got a long way to go, we feel good. But it’s the confidence and knowing each other more that’s helping us a lot.”

The Nets and Warriors will square off at Barclays Center at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 16.

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