Jason Kidd loses tie, and the Nets start winning

Jason Kidd reacts during the second half of

Jason Kidd reacts during the second half of a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Barclays Center. (Jan. 4, 2014) (Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Is it the smaller lineup that has produced rare back-to-back victories for the Nets? Is it better defense, the result of more "energy and effort," in the observation of coach Jason Kidd?

Or could it be something more mystical, such as Kidd showing up without a necktie for Saturday night's victory over Cleveland, only the second time in this 12-21 season that the Nets have produced successive wins?

Kidd eschewed his tie for both wins. Might superstition be an ingredient?

"I guess so," guard Deron Williams said, not appearing to be convinced.

He shrugged. "I guess so."

Then again, anything is worth a try. "We'll see," Kidd said of his possible sartorial influence.

For Monday night's game against Atlanta at Barclays Center, "You can believe I won't wear a tie," he said.

Through the first two months of the season, pinpointing the elements in the Nets' unexpected mediocrity has been complicated by the reality that, in professional basketball, there always is the presence of an opposing team to be dealt with.

Whatever. The Nets will take their recent results without over-analysis.

"Just playing a little better," Williams said. "Trying to be more aggressive. Hitting shots. That's a help."

Kidd's on-the-job training, not only evaluating how to fit the Nets' playing skills and personalities but also dealing with injuries, has not all been easy, he said.

"A lot of it is about personalities," he said. "Understanding each player's strength. Everybody's different, so you have to figure out how guys handle situations."

His leading scorer, Brook Lopez, is gone for the season and his next-best scoring option, Joe Johnson, is in a five-game slump (15-for-50), aside from Thursday night's game-winning shot. "Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't," Kidd said of Johnson's shooting. "Over an 82-game season, a scorer just has to work through it."

Meanwhile, Kidd has hit upon an apparent solution by starting a second point guard -- Shaun Livingston along with Williams -- and going without a true center.

"I think we're a little faster at both ends of the floor," Williams said. "The floor is a lot more spread and it causes some matchup problems, and we've been able to exploit that."

Defensively, "I think our rotations are a little bit better," Williams said. "Whatever the reason, it's working, so we've just got to ride it out."

For now, Kidd's dress-down-for-success strategy is in play.

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