The Brooklyn Nets aren’t going to be confused for a defensive juggernaut anytime soon.
But on Friday night against the Los Angeles Clippers, they certainly looked like one.
In their 86-76 victory at Barclays Center, the Nets held the Clippers to just 29 second-half points and 40.3 percent shooting overall.
Brooklyn (7-4), which snapped a two-game losing streak, is 3-0 when holding its opponents to less than 80 points this season and 6-1 when holding them to 100 or fewer.
“I don’t know if we’ll be able to do this every night, but we’re certainly capable,” said Nets coach Avery Johnson, who declared on media day that he wanted his team to finish in the NBA’s top 10 in defense.
That goal may be a bit ambitious -- given their personnel -- but Friday night’s effort was certainly a step in the right direction.
“It’s kind of a cycle of our team maturing a little bit,” Johnson said. “There were nights on this road trip where I was really disappointed with our defense. Even in the L.A. [Lakers] game I thought we could’ve played better defense. I know they scored 95 points, but I thought we could’ve played better defense. And we didn’t have much energy in the second half in Golden State.”
The Nets trailed by seven at the half, but the league’s worst third-quarter team uncharacteristically outscored the Clippers 23-16 in the frame to knot the game heading into the fourth. And a 12-0 run by Brooklyn late in the final period proved to be the difference.
“We still feel like we can improve a lot defensively, so that’s a good thing,” Nets point guard Deron Williams said. “I think a lot about defense is mental, about five guys working together, it’s about going out there and knowing each guy has each other’s back.”
Brook Lopez led the way with three blocks, while Gerald Wallace, Keith Bogans, Reggie Evans and D-Will combined to limit L.A.’s talented trio of Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford and Blake Griffin to just 41 points on 15-for-34 shooting. The Nets also forced 20 Clippers turnovers and converted them into 19 points.
“It was impressive. I was talking to MarShon [Brooks] on the bench and just saying we’re getting stop after stop, you know?” said Lopez, who added a game-high 26 points.
“We came out and got stops,” D-Will said. “We gave up, what, 76 points? That’s a good defensive game.”