Nets center Nic Claxton and Lakers forward Anthony Davis, right,...

Nets center Nic Claxton and Lakers forward Anthony Davis, right, reach for a rebound during the second half of an NBA game in Los Angeles on Friday. Credit: AP/Ashley Landis

LOS ANGELES — Dennis Smith Jr. let out an audible sigh of relief in the Nets’ locker room after their 130-112 win over the Lakers on Friday night.

The weight of nine losses in their last 10 games was lifted for one night, thanks to Cam Thomas’ 33 points, Nic Claxton holding his own against Anthony Davis and Spencer Dinwiddie rediscovering his shooting touch for the second straight game.

“Now we can breathe a little bit,” said Smith, who scored eight of his 11 points in the fourth quarter. “But we got to get ready to do it again versus the Clippers [on Sunday]. We won. We did what we were supposed to do. We got to flush this and get ready for the next one.”

That attitude is why the Nets’ second win of 2024 can’t just be a moment; it has to create momentum. The Nets’ last winning streak was two games against the Pistons, so they haven’t had a winning streak against multiple teams since a three-game streak on Dec. 2-8.

As impressive as Friday’s win was, the Nets understand they need to sustain playing with energy and better defensive activity even if they don’t shoot 52.6% again. There have been signs of it the last three days, but at the halfway point of the season, it needs to re-emerge as a constant trend, not a one-game success.

“When the ball goes in, that’s helpful,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “Now the next layer [is] when the ball doesn’t go in, that’s our challenge. That’s the grit, that’s the determination, that’s the mental toughness to somehow figure it out and move on to the next possession.”

The Nets summoned one of their best defensive halves of the season by outscoring the Lakers 68-44. They held LeBron James to 3-for-11 shooting after halftime.

Players took it personally when Vaughn showed them a clip at halftime of a possession in which no defender had a hand on someone. They responded by being more physical, and Lonnie Walker IV said it showed what the team is capable of.

Now they need to do it again against the Clippers, who have won nine of their last 11.

“That was a good step in the right direction,” Thomas said. “But to be honest, we really didn’t do anything. It’s just one game, one game of us putting it all together. We have another tough game coming up on Sunday against a team that is rolling.”

There are signs that the Nets have taken some steps forward defensively. In the last four games, they’ve held teams to 31.1% three-point shooting, a stark improvement from the 43.5% they allowed in the 16 games before that.

Vaughn said that with Day’Ron Sharpe out, the Nets have played less drop coverage and have done more switching on pick-and-rolls. It’s helped defend the three-point line better and bodes well with two of their next three opponents — the Clippers and Timberwolves — among the NBA’s top three three-point shooting teams.

One game could be a blip or a turning point, and the Nets hope it’s the latter after they stopped their spiral for one night.

“I think individually, once you show that you can do one thing, you want to see it every single game and just show some consistency,” Walker said. “So I think that’s something that’s just next level for us.”

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