It might be tough for fans to hear, but for a new Nets regime starting from scratch, the process of a rebuild that has just broken ground is more important for now than wins and losses.
Although an ending in which the Nets were outscored 6-0 in the final 48.7 seconds of a 100-97 loss to Boston on Thursday night at Barclays Center was disappointing, the fact that they improved defensively and turned an eight-point fourth-quarter deficit into a three-point lead heading to the final minute was encouraging. Greivis Vasquez missed a potential tying three-pointer with 2.9 seconds left.
“We could have managed it a little better,” coach Kenny Atkinson said of the final possession. “It will be great for us to look at film in certain situations, getting on the same page, coaches and players. We could have gotten better shots at the end of the game, and we lapsed in defensive transition once or twice at the end, which was a little disappointing.”
But coming off losses in which they gave up 116 points to the Knicks and 121 to Miami, the Nets showed significant improvement against a playoff team from last season. They held the Celtics to 41.7 percent shooting, including 8-for-29 from the three-point line. The problem: Their own offense wasn’t any better, as they shot 38.4 percent from the field and made 10 of 35 three-point shots.
“Defensively, I was really happy,” Atkinson said. “Just our energy, our activity and just the way the guys competed. It’s a big improvement . . . from the last two games.”
Six Nets scored in double figures: Luis Scola (14 points, 11 rebounds), Jeremy Lin (12 points, seven assists), Trevor Booker (11 points, 12 rebounds), Brook Lopez (11 points), Bojan Bogdanovic (11) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (10). Al Horford and Marcus Smart topped Boston with 13 points each.
The most impressive aspect of the game for the Nets was how they scrapped to overcome an eight-point deficit after three quarters to take a three-point lead into the final minute. But they failed to score on their last four possessions and let the Celtics get a fast-break dunk by Jordan Mickey for the go-ahead basket at 98-97.
“Today was probably our best game against a very good team that probably is going to be in the playoffs,” Vasquez said.
Speaking of their improved defense, he added, “I thought tonight we were aggressive. Tonight is Brooklyn Nets basketball. If we play like tonight, we’re going to be fine . . . I like our team. We’re going to surprise a lot of people.”
Atkinson used an 11-man rotation that likely will resemble how the Nets play in the regular season because he wanted to see them together for an extended period. The improved continuity especially showed up on defense.
“We definitely took a step forward in terms of defensive effort, in terms of urgency and desperation,” Lin said. “We have to be the hardest-playing team, and from there, we have a chance to win. That just has to be our identity, and tonight we did a good job of doing that.”