The cheers could be heard coming from the locker room — there was clapping and shouting and laughter. The type of laughter you don’t hear a lot of during an 11-game losing streak, or a tense run-up to the trade deadline, or after a key piece in a team’s championship strategy leaves for a different home.
But the Nets had every reason to celebrate after their 109-85 win over the Kings at Barclays Center on Monday night.
Seth Curry had a game-changing debut with the team. Andre Drummond’s introduction was seamless. And Bruce Brown’s complete performance filled the stat sheet and produced one of his best defensive games of the season.
It felt, Brown said, like a turning point. It also was an end to a brutal streak and an indication that at least two of the Nets’ three deadline acquisitions will be able to acclimate to their new environment (it’s not certain when Ben Simmons, the main piece in the James Harden trade, will be cleared to play).
Curry all but carried the Nets in the third quarter and finished with 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Drummond had 11 points and nine rebounds.
"The locker room, it’s just a great vibe in there right now," said Brown, who had 19 points, six assists and five steals, matching a career high. "I don’t know what it is. Everything just shifted after the trade deadline. Everybody likes everybody . . . We were in Miami and we had a little team bonding event and then the vibe just changed. We can all feel it."
The Nets (30-27) never trailed in the game, but the lowly Kings (22-37) sure did make them work for it, scoring the first six points in the third quarter to draw within one. That’s when Curry put together four minutes of basketball poetry.
He scored the next seven Nets points. Then he threw a no-look pass to Brown, who finished and got fouled for the three-point play. Seconds later, Curry hit a right-wing three-pointer and a 19-foot jumper to put the Nets up 70-57.
"We put him in a position to be himself," coach Steve Nash said. "We wanted him to play and be uninhibited."
He added that Brown, who was a defensive force in the second half, "was amazing. Give the game ball to Bruce."
It was a necessary jolt after the Nets squandered a 19-point first-quarter lead, one cobbled together by Brown, Curry and a dynamic transition game in which they scored 10 fast-break points to the Kings’ zero.
De’Aaron Fox, though, scored 12 of his 26 points in the second quarter, and the Kings got to within three with a 15-6 run.
LaMarcus Aldridge (19 points), back after missing seven games because of a sprained ankle, scored the last eight Nets points of the half to keep them ahead 55-48 at the break.
Curry said he was able to adapt so quickly because Nash brought everything back to basics — a necessity given that he and Drummond had only two shootarounds with the team.
"He simplified it," Curry said. "Steve gave us simple actions to run. [A] smart basketball player should know what to do out there — just kind of playing fast, up-tempo, pushing the ball, letting guards make plays, get downhill . . . If you know how to play, it’s pretty simple."
Nash told the Nets to "play your game and the rest will take care of itself," Drummond said. "All the little details of plays and defensive schemes, you know, we’ll worry about that later when we’ve got time to practice. But today’s agenda was just to play as hard as we can and win a game."
And for the first time in 12 tries, the Nets did.