NEW YORK -- Jason Kidd asked for fight from his Brooklyn Nets, and that’s exactly what the players gave their head coach -- albeit against the worst team in the NBA.
Still, when you’re struggling as bad as the Nets are, you take anything you can get. Especially when a daunting road trip through Indiana, San Antonio and Oklahoma City looms.
In a game the Nets had to win, they did, 104-93, over the Milwaukee Bucks Friday night at Barclays Center.
Their four-game losing streak is over. And they can rest easy, until Saturday night, when they take on the Eastern Conference-leading Pacers (23-5) at Bakers Life Fieldhouse.
“We’re just trying to gather some confidence going into the new year. This is as tough as it gets during a three-game road trip,” Paul Pierce said. “You’ve got the top three teams in the league (Miami and Portland would like to have a say in that), so it was important for us to at least get a win before we head out on a tough road trip.”
Agreed, especially when you factor in all the recent tumult surrounding this underachieving team. Earlier Friday, Yahoo! Sports reported that support for Kidd was wavering within the locker room and the organization.
“I just coach and get my guys ready,” Kidd said when asked about the report. “I can’t answer to what you guys make up.”
Friday night’s victory was all about balance. For the first time all season, Pierce (13 points), Kevin Garnett (10 points) and Jason Terry (12 points) all scored in double figures in the same game. The Nets (10-19) were led in scoring by Shaun Livingston (20 points, six assists and five rebounds) and Mirza Teletovic (career-high 19 points). Teletovic credited Kidd for his recent stretch of strong play.
"Jason's approach towards me is different than ... what I had before," he said.
Brooklyn held Milwaukee (6-23) to just 37.5 percent shooting and drained 12 3-pointers. The Nets jumped out to a 31-18 lead after the first quarter and never looked back. They led by as many as 23.
“We need it every night,” Terry said of the production the ex-Boston Celtics trio gave the Nets. “We need that every night for us to be a successful team. And that’s our role, and that’s our job, and so every night we’re gonna put an emphasis on us shooting the ball well and making sure we’re in a good rhythm, and I think this was the first game since that’s happened.”
Pierce, who had gone 2-for-15 from the field in his past two games, was elevated into the starting lineup alongside Livingston, Joe Johnson, Pierce, Garnett and Deron Williams (nine points, four assists). Kidd decided to tinker with his starting lineup again in an effort to find results, and Pierce, who had mentioned inconsistent minutes as one of the reasons for his poor play, performed better as a result.
“I mean, you just gotta understand and be ready when you’re called upon,” said Pierce, who had come off the bench in seven of his previous eight games. “I’ve been in this league a long time, and I’ve seen players play low minutes and be successful. I’ve seen players play a lot of minutes and be successful. So I’m just trying to find that gap right now, everything is different for me.
“I’ve always been the first option, I’ve always been in the starting lineup. Adjusting to a new role is kind of different for me at times, especially coming off the bench, being a third or fourth option. I’ve never done that in my career. I’m just right now trying to fit in with the group so we can decide what’s best for this group to be successful.”
Following consecutive 17-point losses this week, Kidd reportedly called out the team in the locker room Wednesday, while Garnett also vented his frustration. Kidd downplayed the meeting, but his message was clear: Show more fight.
Garnett declined to share what he told his teammates.
“That has to do with nobody here. That was a personal thing with the team and I want to keep it personal,” he said.
This season has certainly been a trying one, Garnett admitted.
“It’s been difficult, but like I said this is when you find out who’s with you and who’s willing to fight, who’s willing to work,” he said. “This is not easy for everybody. We’re all dealing with it in our different ways, but we’re coming in here trying to change.”
Has Garnett seen the fight from guys he needed to see it from?
“I wouldn’t show up if I didn’t,” he replied.