NEW YORK -- Why have the Brooklyn Nets gone undefeated (5-0) since the New Year began?
Let’s take a look:
1. Defense: It’s pretty obvious. The Nets have picked up their intensity on D, and they’re getting stops. Since this all started Jan. 2 in Oklahoma City, the Nets are giving up just 97.9 points per 100 possessions -- sixth-best in the NBA. They’re also giving up just 42.7 percent shooting -- eighth-best in the league over that span.
2. Small lineups rock: Because of Brook Lopez's season-ending injury, Nets coach Jason Kidd has had to make some altercations to his starting five. Basically, he decided to go small, moving Kevin Garnett to center, Paul Pierce to power forward and playing two point guards. The Nets haven’t been able to do that as much with Deron Williams out, but the fact is, they play better when they go small. Since this whole hot streak began, their four-man lineup of Garnett, Livingston, Joe Johnson and Pierce has a plus-31.6 net rating (113 offensive rating, 81.4 defensive rating) in 78 minutes together (over four games).
3. KG’s resurgence: Garnett is playing extremely well -- and the Nets are a much better team when he’s on the floor than when he’s sitting the bench. In four of the five games he did play (110 minutes overall), the Nets have a 109.3 offensive rating and an 87.9 defensive rating. In the 150 minutes he didn’t play, those numbers dropped to 101.1 (offense) and 105.3 (defense). Truly incredible. He’s also making 57.1 percent of his mid-range shots, well up from his season average of 36.8 percent.
4. The return of AK-47: Stats don’t do Andrei Kirilenko justice. He just does too many things that don’t show up in the box score. He always seems to get a hand on the ball. He’s so unselfish. He plays with passion, energy and effort. The Nets just have to hope he stays healthy, because he’s playing like the $3.2 million bargain they thought he’d be when they signed him in the offseason.
5. Other factors: Johnson is averaging 27.3 points in his past three games after a rough stretch. Mirza Teletovic (42.3 percent 3-point shooting in his past five games) is playing with confidence. Pierce has thrived at the four. The Nets have been able to withstand runs and poor quarters. Kidd has been improving as well. Overall, the Nets are really coming together as a team.
To those trying to downplay this streak: Yes, it’s only five games. And yes, the Nets caught a couple lucky breaks. No Russell Westbrook against the Oklahoma City Thunder. No Al Horford against the Atlanta Hawks. The Golden State Warriors and the Heat in the second half of back-to-backs; the Heat minus Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier. But lest we forget, the Nets have been without D-Will for the past four games and will be without Brook Lopez all season. Perspective people. Perspective. These are legit wins against quality opponents.