Make that eight straight for the red-hot Brooklyn Nets (21-12), who now own the longest active winning streak in the NBA. What’s more, they answered a lot of questions presented during their previous seven games.
Over an extended run that has seen them win 12 of their last 13 contests, the Nets have gone 5-0 against teams currently slotted in the Play-In Tournament field.
But they were 0-1 against the only team currently owning a guaranteed spot, the Boston Celtics.
That was until they hosted two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks who came in atop the Eastern Conference but left in second place (behind Boston) with the Nets’ 118-100 win. After the game, emerging big man Nic Claxton spoke with Nets sideline reporter Meghan Triplett of the YES Network and had a strong message for the rest of the NBA.
Claxton’s Bold Claim
“We coming for everybody,” Claxton told Triplett in his walk-off interview. “We’ve had a lot of disappointment over this season, these past few seasons. But now, things are rolling [and] we just got to keep it going.”
The Nets have certainly been no strangers to controversy this season dating back to the overhaul of the roster and coaching staff before Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving’s arrival.
It only got worse with James Harden’s arrival and subsequent departure.
This past summer saw Irving’s standoff with management, Durant’s demand that general manager Sean Marks and head coach Steve Nash be fired. Nash would later step down seven games into the season after a 2-5 start. But then, Irving was back in the spotlight after causing an uproar over his posting a video deemed anti-semitic.
Brooklyn shook off that opening salvo and has since gone 19-7 for the best record in the East in that span.
What’s more, they shook off a recent early trend of falling behind early, something that led forward Royce O’Neal to send a stern warning. But they only allowed Milwaukee to get out in front by two points in the first quarter before the route was on.
“We just came out [and] we was solid for four quarters,” Claxton said. “We were locked in. They went on a little run in the third quarter but we stuck to the game plan and got it done.”
Claxton’s Breakout Continues
It was another strong performance for the breakout big man, now in his fourth NBA season out of the University of Georgia. Claxton tied his season-high with 19 points which he has now reached three times adding eight rebounds, five assists, and three steals. He is averaging 11.3 points, 8.6 boards, 2.3 blocks, 1.5 assists, and 0.8 steals per game.
All of those are career-best marks.
“Just staying aggressive,” Claxton said. “They’re really loading up trying to stop our main guys. So just taking advantage of my opportunities and doing what I do.”
He also leads the league in field goal percentage while being a force on the other end.
Surprisingly, the only thing that Claxton failed to do in this one was record a blocked shot, though he still ranks third in the NBA behind Jaren Jackson Jr. of the Memphis Grizzlies and Bucks big man Brook Lopez.
Rumors Still Swirl
Despite Claxton’s breakout, the Nets have been pegged as a team that could be active on the big-man market at the trade deadline for help on the glass. They could also use a more diverse offensive skill set since Claxton’s field goal percentage comes thanks in large part to plays at the rim like this.
He is also notoriously shaky at the free-throw line as a career 51.3% shooter hitting just 45.9% this year.
The Nets have been linked to Mo Bamba of the Orlando Magic and could even find their way into finally consummating a deal for Atlanta Hawks big man John Collins. Both targets should be able to play alongside Claxton which should be Brooklyn’s goal.
They are not rich with quality young talent or draft capital with an aging roster