Can you say unstoppable?
The Nets won their eighth straight game Thursday night, steamrolling the Orlando Magic, 129-92, at Barclays Center.
The Nets (22-12) remained a half-game out of first place in the Eastern Conference because the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday. Still, it’s hard not to think it’s only a matter of time before the Nets rise to the top, considering that they have managed to put together a dominant stretch even though Kevin Durant has missed six straight games with a hamstring injury.
The Nets were so overpowering that coach Steve Nash didn’t play James Harden in the fourth quarter and removed Kyrie Irving with more than seven minutes left in the third, when the Nets had a 31-point lead.
"A big part of it is our group is bonding," Nash said. "We’re growing together. They are starting to feel success and roles are shoring up and you can sense it out there that they are having more fun."
Irving led the Nets with 27 points, nine assists and five rebounds. Harden added 20 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Landry Shamet added 19 points off the bench, including five three-pointers.
Orlando was led by Nikola Vucevic’s 28 points and 12 rebounds.
After a close first quarter in which their offense looked as bad as it has in eight games, the Nets took control with a 41-19 second quarter. Harden scored 13 points in the period, including three three-pointers.
It marked the 10th time this season that the Nets have had a 40-point quarter. They had nine 40-point quarters all of last season.
"It’s just our effort and knowing we had to settle in," Irving said. "Not every game is going to start the way we want it to."
Every Net who played on Thursday scored. Even the bench thoroughly outplayed Orlando’s reserves, outscoring them 46-28.
The Nets have not lost since Feb. 9, when they suffered an embarrassing 122-111 defeat in Detroit in the first night of a back-to-back.
Nash, a rookie coach, looked visibly shaken after that game, which was understandable, considering that the Pistons had the worst record in the Eastern Conference.
The Nets then had to play Indiana at home, and Nash challenged his team before that game to play at a higher level.
"We’re playing a very dangerous Indiana team, and kind of laid it on the line for them before the game, which is not ideal in the regular season," Nash recalled. "You don’t want to necessarily bring negative teaching clips before a game. But we didn’t have a shootaround on a back-to-back with travel, so I thought we couldn’t pass the opportunity to keep getting better."
They beat Indiana, 104-94. Beginning with that game, the Nets have compiled the longest active winning streak in the NBA and their longest since a franchise record-tying 14-game run late in the 2005-06 season.
Notes & quotes: Irving spoke after the game about his recent Instagram post that advocated that Kobe Bryant replace Jerry West as the logo of the league. Said Irving: "I know some people love the idea and some people don’t like it. My thing is paying homage to the example that was set by that man . . . He was the standard for our generation. He will continue on and I want that to be something in history that has changed forever. I think he deserves it. I think his family deserves it. I think we deserve it as seeing greatness personified."