The Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers faced off in a potential NBA Finals preview on Sunday night, ending in a 112-108 Nets victory. In a highly competitive contest between the two powerhouses, things were chippy all game long.
Tempers flared in the fourth quarter after Nets forward Bruce Brown and Clippers guard Paul George got tangled up in the waning minutes of the game. If you can read lips, you can see Brown apparently calling George a “p****” in the midst of the exchange.
During the live broadcast, ESPN commentator Jeff Van Gundy noted that multiple security guards had stormed the floor to separate the two players before the referees got involved.
The Nets Have Looked Like a Different Team Recently
With Sunday’s win, the Nets currently sit at second place in the Eastern Conference. The team boasts 20-12 record and has now won six games in a row. Five of those six wins have been without star forward Kevin Durant, who suffered a left hamstring strain during Brooklyn’s win over the Golden State Warriors on February 13.
One of the biggest reasons behind the winning streak has been how the Nets have picked up their defensive effort during their West coast road trip.
The Nets are statistically amongst the worst defensive teams through the early portion of the season, ranking just 28th in defensive rating, according to Lineups. However, their effort has been visibly better on the defensive side of the ball.
Kyrie Irving: ‘It’s About Time We Turn the Corner’
Nets shooting guard and 2021 All-Star starter Kyrie Irving recently spoke about the team’s defensive effort, suggesting the improvements have been a long time coming.
“It’s about time we turn the corner defensively,” Irving said on a Zoom call with reporters after the Nets’ win over the Lakers on Thursday, via SNY. “No team is going to win anything in this league if they don’t get stops. It’s about time. And we heard [Steve Nash] loud and clear in the last few games.”
While the Nets are playing harder on defense, but most of their improvement will not show up in the box score — diving on the floor for loose balls, forcing jump balls, etc. They are clearly making an effort to be aggressors on defense.
Follow the Heavy on Nets Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content out of Brooklyn!
“One of our points of emphasis when we go into games is just stay connected no matter what. Stick to the game plan,” Irving elaborated, via Nets Wire. “We trust it, we’ve talked about it. So, just go out there and play, and play free and execute it — but we’re going to hold each other accountable.”
Brooklyn has had impressive wins over three Western Conference contenders in the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, and Los Angeles Clippers during this road trip. The Nets hope to get Durant back at some point soon, but head coach Steve Nash said last Thursday that there is no timetable for his return.
Fortunately, the Nets are just a half-game back of the Philadelphia 76ers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.