Brooklyn Nets’ early season woes have disappeared under new head coach Jacque Vaughn, who has led the team to the number two seed in the Eastern Conference and a 10-game winning streak – their longest since 2006. We look at what is behind their recent run of good form.
Nets’ supercharged attack
You don’t win 10 games on the trot without an absurd scoring rate, and the Nets have been doing exactly that.
They’ve picked up an offensive rating of 123.4 and are connecting with extreme efficiency on shooting around the court, thanks to the efforts of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Both have been embroiled in controversy this season but proved their worth on the court, making them ideal picks in our 2022/23 MVP predictions.
Fortunately, they aren’t the only elements of this Nets attack that are finally clicking. Enter stage-right: Ben Simmons.
The man that was booed off each week, laughed at by Philadelphia 76ers fans, and has spent more time injured than playing in the early stages of the season is finally delivering exactly what he promised the franchise.
Not only has Simmons been a crucial big man on rebounds and rim attacks, he’s also been pivotal on the defence. His disruptive and prickly nature off-court has been a useful tool on it. Simmons is averaging 7.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists, allowing both Irving and Durant to flourish.
Royce O’Neal and Nic Claxton have done their fair share of chipping in, and therein lies the success of the Nets – sharing the spoils just as well as knowing when to pass up the plaudits as they climb the East Conference standings.
The best duo in the league?
Jayson Tatum and Jalen Brown might have something to say about that.
But there’s no debate that Durant and Irving have definitely entered the conversation. The Boston boys had a long reign of supremacy, but they’re no longer contesting the title alone.
Indeed, Durant and Irving are averaging a combined 59.7 points a game, consistently and relentlessly scoring from within the paint, from threes, outside the paint. You get the point.
Where the pair might be slacking on points, they make up for in ruthless shooting efficiency, connecting on 51 per cent from the field (1st in the NBA) and 39.1 per cent from the three-point line (1st in the NBA).
Where in previous seasons one or the other has struggled with making the most of their chances, this hasn’t been the case for either in this impressive 10-game streak.
Now operating as the number two seed in the Eastern Conference, you can expect those skills to level up as we approach the February All-Star clash and playoffs.
Masters of the clutch
The Nets have overpowered defences across the league, but their best trait may be snatching victories in the dying moments of games.
Master of the clutch, Vaughn’s team have had six of their 10 wins decided by six points or less, with seven of their wins coming in the final minutes of the game.
Primarily, this has come from the contributions of Durant, and more so Irving, who leads fourth-quarter scoring with 9.1 points (this has jumped to 12 in this 10-game spell).
Irving’s tenacity, and silky ballhandling makes him incredibly slippery to mark and contain, and as such, he has been able to squeeze himself into lanes and gaps to pile on the late scoring.
This was none more so evident than in Wednesday night’s win over the Atlanta Hawks, as the Nets held on for a 108-107 win in the final possession of the game.
Though they dominated the early quarters, they did leave it late, and perhaps that should serve as a warning point for a team who does not need to leave it so to win games, not with the kind of talent they possess.
The Nets next face the fading 9-26 Charlotte Hornets on January 1, where they will look to extend their streak to 11.