And just like that, the Brooklyn Nets (20-12) are the owners of the NBA’s longest active winning streak after toppling the Golden State Warriors 143-113 on a record-setting night for both teams. For the Nets, the win gives them 10 in their last 11 tries and has them sitting just 2.5 games out of first place in the Eastern Conference.
But it was not just him as nine of the 10 players to see action got up at least four shots.
That led to 35 made baskets on 25 assists and a strong message from previously embattled star Ben Simmons. The oversized guard finished with 10 points, eight assists, four rebounds, and one steal.
Simmons: Nets ‘Trusting Each Other’
“That’s what basketball is to me,” Simmons told reporters after helping his team put themselves in the history books. “You know, guys sharing the ball, us getting the best shot we can every time down and then trusting each other.”
Simmons’ comments reflect just how far the Nets have come since the offseason marred by Durant’s trade request.
Even since the middle of November when Kyrie Irving dominated headlines.
The Nets began the year 2-5 but have gone 18-7 since then the departure of former head coach Steve Nash. Simmons credited Nash’s replacement, Jacque Vaughn, for trusting the players, though it hasn’t all been pretty.
“I think it was our focus coming into the game,” Simmons said. “I think the last two games we came out of the gate too slow and not focused. The little things for us gets us going. So defensively, knowing out matchups, communication. And I think that’s what really go us going.”
Simmons has returned from missing five of six games to average 7.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 6.2 assists over the last four games.
Despite his limited personal production, he has had a big impact on the floor.
The Nets are plus-1.4 per 100 possessions with Simmons on the floor, per Cleaning The Glass. They are plus-2.1 with Irving and Durant on the floor and, with all three sharing the court, they are plus-5.6 on the season.
Building The Bridge
Brooklyn has admittedly taken advantage of the softer portion of their schedule. But that is all about to change with a tough home date against the Milwaukee Bucks on tap next.
“We’re going to need to be ready,” said Simmons of his looming matchup with Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. “K.Y.P, knowing your personnel, going into that game. And then focused.”
After that, the Nets will be on the road for six of the next seven contests all of which are against teams that at least made the Play-In Tournament last season. Irving was also a late scratch against the Warriors due to right calf tightness with Vaughn saying there was no update and that they were “hopeful” Irving would be able to play against Milwaukee.
An extended absence from Irving would certainly add to the challenge of the upcoming slate.