The tension and frustration of the Nets’ recent eight-game losing streak broke when they scored an upset win in overtime against Toronto, the NBA’s best team on Friday night. When they affirmed that success with a victory over the Knicks on Saturday night that was their first in three years in the second game of a back-to-back on the road, the crisis was over.
“We were down and out there, eight losses in a row, so to get those two wins, my Sunday will be a lot better,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “We call it a ‘Q of L’ win, ‘quality of life’ win, feel a little better and everything tastes a little better.”
Several Nets made postgame plans for an evening out in Manhattan after the game, knowing Sunday was a day off. As they headed out into the night, there was a sense the Nets had weathered the storm intact and learned from it.
“The biggest thing mentally was how to stick with it, how to stay together, stay connected,” said forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, whose defensive presence in both games set an example for toughness. “That’s something big and something tough to do. Certain people and certain teams kind of go their separate ways. Practice is over, go home.
“But not us. We stayed locked in, we stayed together. We laugh together, we joke together, we talked about it. Once we went through that tough phase, it paid off.”
Spencer Dinwiddie was the Nets’ offensive star, scoring 17 of his game-high 25 points off the bench in the second half. It came on a special day for him because Dec. 8 is the shared birthday of his late grandmother and his brother, it was the second anniversary of his signing with the Nets, and it was the official release date for his new line of sneakers.
“To score 25, my favorite number, on Dec. 8, I mean you can’t write it any better than that,” said the man whose Twitter handle is @SDinwiddie_25. “That’s crazy.”
Dinwiddie said the Nets learned a “plethora of lessons” during their losing streak, which was defined by several close losses and blown leads, and “built some resolve.”
Asked if anything changed following a players-only film session that was suggested by the coaching staff the day before they beat Toronto, Dinwiddie said, “I think our communication ratcheted up a notch. In a players-only film session, it forces guys to communicate. You can’t just sit there like statues and watch the tape go by.”
Was it a case of needing to clear the air? Dinwiddie smiled slyly and said, “No, no, I wouldn’t call it a Festivus.” That was his subtle reference to the “Airing of Grievances” after a Festivus dinner in a Seinfeld episode.
“That’s funny. No, it was more technical things. You talk about, ‘Hey, I thought you were going to switch there.’ Just things like that. It wasn’t like, ‘Hey, I’ve got a problem with you.’”
While the Nets remained on solid ground with each other, Dinwiddie admitted they were not immune to the criticism everyone in the organization was receiving on social media.
“It’s part of being in the NBA,” Dinwiddie said. “You go on an eight-game losing streak, you’re going to have criticism. That is literally what you sign up for. But we believe in our guys, we believe in our coaches, we believe in our staff and our organization. Part of winning is proving that belief and then putting that on display for the fans and the rest of the league.”
In that regard, the Nets understand two straight wins don’t mean they’re over the hump. They likely will be without injured Caris LeVert for another two months, but they believe they can turn things around.
“We’re trying to make the playoffs,” Dinwiddie said. “If we could rattle off the next three or four games, which isn’t out of the question, the perception of the team and the season just completely shifts.”