Bottom line: The Nets have won seven straight games, and Kevin Durant (left hamstring strain) had missed five of them and was ruled out of their next game against the Magic Thursday night at Barclays Center.
The Nets (21-12) were one-half game behind the 76ers for the Eastern Conference lead, and both teams played Thursday night. In fact, the Nets have won 12 of their previous 16 games, and that includes a season-high three-game losing streak. But going into the game against the Magic (13-19), they had won seven straight and appear to be unstoppable even though Durant (left hamstring strain) missed his sixth straight game Thursday.
After a 5-0 West Coast road trip that was a franchise-best result, James Harden said, "We have to continue to keep going. This is always a tough game (home win over Kings on Tuesday) coming off a long road trip . . . Whether it’s our legs or whatever, no excuses, and we came out the show tonight from the beginning of the game. We just got to continue to keep going. Get some rest and be prepared every single game."
Nets coach Steve Nash noted they were without small-ball center Jeff Green and lost Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Landry Shamet to injuries before their win over the Kings was complete on Tuesday. "We’ve grown," Nash said. "We’ve come together a lot more.
"You can just feel the energy amongst the players, the bond that’s formed, and that’s something that you have to invest in every day. That connectivity and the guys that are investing that energy and support into each other every night, and that makes you tough to beat. I think we’ve turned the corner in that respect."
The fact that the Nets are on a seven-game winning streak is not surprising in one aspect, but considering they haven’t had Durant for five of those games, it is amazing. It began after a terrible loss at Detroit.
"It might just be that we were tired of losing," Joe Harris said. "Let’s start winning by any means necessary. Whatever it takes. We’ve had . . . a few guys in and out of lineups, but the next man up and the next man ready to go."
Harden recorded his sixth triple double (29 points, 11 rebounds, 14 assists). Harden attributed the Nets’ recent success to the fact that the role players have begun to learn how to play off himself and Kyrie Irving even without Durant.
"That’s why we’re more comfortable now because guys know their roles and know what to expect from themselves and the rest of our team." Harden said. "We’re much better no matter who checks in the game, and that’s why we’ve been so efficient as far as one guy goes down and the next guy isn’t in that night and the next guy is up and he knows what his role is. We have to continue that."
Harden agreed the Nets might not have won that game over the Kings a couple weeks earlier. But he suggested the Nets have evolved in terms of learning their roles. "I don’t think we look at the names and the jerseys," Harden said. "We look at ourselves and we figure out how we can be great every single night. We play our brand of basketball every single night, and as of late, we’ve been doing that at a high level.
"It’s easy for us right now. Our roles are defined, so those guys come in and know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. That’s what’s so great. That’s why we’re more comfortable now because guys know their roles and know what to expect from themselves and the rest of our team."