The Nets defeated the Pistons 103-75 on Monday night in Barclays Center in a "must-win" game. Brooklyn is now a half-game ahead of Detroit for the 6th seed in the eastern conference playoffs. Here are five thoughts from the Nets' dominating win.
1. Playoff atmosphere at Barclays
We are just about at mid-March and there is meaningful basketball being played at Barclays Center, and we're not talking about college basketball tournaments. The Nets are in the thick of a playoff race. They along with the Pistons, Heat, even the Magic and Hornets are all battling for the last three spots in the eastern conference playoffs.
All season long the Nets crowd has been, meh. When the heavyweight teams and superstar players are in town, the arena is full. But the crowd is mostly cheering for the opposition. As the season has gone on, it has gotten incrementally better, but still a far cry from a true home crowd.
Monday night was different. The arena was pretty close to capacity, and they were well aware of the significance of the game. Now, the game eventually ended up being a blowout. But the crowd was loud and passionate early on. This is the kind of crowd the Nets will need for their remaining home games in the regular season and it will need to go up a level for the playoffs, if they make it.
Take a look at the atmosphere last night.
Courtesy of Nets Daily's Bryan Fonseca.
2. 34-16 second quarter
Monday night was one of "those nights" for the Nets. They came out of the locker room with the requisite energy, focus, and commitment to the game plan. After one quarter they led, 27-19 and at halftime, it was 61-35. Brooklyn opened up the floodgates with a dominating second quarter.
They hounded the Pistons on defense, limiting them to 4 made shots in the quarter (4-20). It's true, the Pistons were on a back to back, but they are in this playoff battle as well and the Nets just took it to them. Spencer Dinwiddie and Rodions Kurucs (17 points) outscored the entire Pistons team in that quarter.
3. Meek Mill in the house
Not only was the crowd playoff-like on Monday night. The celebrity factor was up a notch as well. The Barclays Center has had all sorts of well-known celebrities from the worlds of pop culture, politics, and sports in attendance this season. But, they are often a step below their neighbors across the river at Madison Square Garden.
Hip Hop star and criminal justice reform activist, Meek Mill raised the quotient a bit with his appearance on Monday night.
4. 7 game road trip
At OKC, at Utah, at LAC, at SAC, at LAL, at POR, at PHI. Those are the next seven games for the Nets. With the exception of the Lakers and Kings, every team is in the playoff picture. The Lakers still have LeBron James and the Kings were in the playoff race as recently as a week ago.
A 2-5 record at the end of this road trip will not be good. The Nets need to find a way to finish this trip with their total record no worse than .500. That means a 4-3 record on this very difficult road trip. They are certainly capable and it will start with beating the Lakers, Kings, and Clippers. The latter of which won't be easy. Then between the Thunder, Jazz, Trail Blazers and 76ers, they'll need to find another win. This is what it takes to make the playoffs in a tough league.
5. Kenny Atkinson and D'Angelo Russell
The connection between the head coach and point guard is often dissected and put under a microscope. Coaches are often most hard on point guards as they are their natural extension on the court. The point guard or lead ball handler is tasked with setting up the offense and making sure players are where they are supposed to be. Decision making is of paramount importance. When to push the tempo, when to dial back, finding the right guy, finding someone who hasn't had a touch in a few possessions. It's a balance and the hardest position to play in the league.
Atkinson and Russell have developed a great relationship over their two years together in Brooklyn. We've detailed how it hasn't always gone smoothly. What relationship does? But they are at a stage now where trust is developed and both men understand what is necessary for team success, which is the ultimate goal.
Following the game both talked about the win against Detroit, what they have in front of them on the upcoming road trip, and the playoffs.