The Nets were streaking the wrong way for eight games, then the right way for seven. Now they were at an intersection in Brooklyn on Sunday, trying to go back in the right direction after finally losing Friday night.
They were playing a team that was at the same intersection. After dropping 10 straight, the Suns won four in a row before losing to the Wizards in triple overtime Saturday night and expending a lot of energy in the front end of their back-to-back.
That’s one big reason why the Nets figured to have an advantage at Barclays Center after merely practicing Saturday. But they needed to avoid falling into the web of a classic trap game — playing a tired team with a bad record while looking ahead to a two-day Christmas break.
They were ready, though. Despite displaying some rough edges on defense in the first half, they turned up the temperature in the third quarter and beat the Suns, 111-103.
So the Nets have won eight of their last nine. They refused to let Friday’s loss to Indiana turn into a skid.
“I think that was really important, actually, because we have to start a new winning streak, right?” said rookie Rodions Kurucs, who had his first double-double with 16 points and a career-high 10 rebounds. “ . . . We have to go to the playoffs, so we have to win as many games as possible now.''
Spencer Dinwiddie had 24 points and seven assists off the bench. D’Angelo Russell added 18 points, eight assists and six rebounds, Ed Davis had 15 points, nine rebounds and three steals, and Joe Harris scored 13 points.
Phoenix center Deandre Ayton hurt the Nets inside. The 7-1 rookie, who was the first overall pick in the 2018 draft, had 26 points and 18 rebounds for the Suns (8-26), who are tied with Cleveland for the NBA’s worst record. “I thought Deandre Ayton was Shaq-esque,” the Nets’ Jared Dudley said.
“We knew that after last night, the triple-overtime game, that it was going to be tough to get our feet underneath us, but I feel like we fought hard in spurts,” said the Suns’ Devin Booker (25 points). “We just didn’t have it the full 48 minutes.”
The Nets may be going in the right direction, but the defense still needs work. They gave up 60 points in the paint and allowed 31 points in the first quarter. “That’s a team on a back-to-back and three overtimes,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “We should do a better job there.”
But the Nets’ climb toward .500 has reached 16-19. “I think we’re going up,” Russell said. “We’re going in the right direction.”