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BROOKLYN – For all the criticism Nets coach Jason Kidd took early in the season, it should be known that it took Kidd all of one game to realize he had to find a way around the team’s Achilles’ heel.
The Nets were outrebounded 48-37 and got outscored 34-30 in the paint by the Cleveland Cavaliers in a 98-94 season-opening loss.
And that was when the Nets still had center Brook Lopez, who would be lost for the season in late December after suffering a broken bone in his right foot.
Kidd began thinking of using his players’ length, quickness and intelligence to offset the interior vulnerability. He changed the defensive philosophy after about six weeks, emphasizing switches on picks.
The results are nothing short of astounding.
In Wednesday night’s 103-94 win over the Memphis Grizzlies at Barclays Center, the Nets made 14 steals. They are the NBA’s first team to make 12 or more steals in four straight games.
On Thursday, the Nets made a seemingly minor transaction that could have a major impact. They signed point guard Jorge Gutierrez to a 10-day contract. Gutierrez had been with the Canton Charge of the NBA Development League.
Gutierrez was with the Nets in training camp, where he left an impression with relentless play on defense. His 6-3, 195-pound frame makes him a perfect fit for the Nets’ switching, swarming defense.
“He gives you everything he’s got on defense,’’ point guard Shaun Livingston said during training camp. “And he’s really smart with the ball.
“He’s one of those players that I think just needs a chance, needs to find the right situation. He leaves everything on the court."
Gutierrez has always made his mark with his hustle and defense. After going undrafted in 2012 he spent last season with the Canton Charge of the NBA Development League.
Gutierrez was named to the NBA D-League’s All-Defensive First Team and All-Rookie First Team. At Cal, his work ethic made him a favorite of coach Mike Montgomery.
“We are absolutely delighted for Jorge," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. "He is one of my favorite kids I have ever coached. He deserves it. I hope he makes his mark in the NBA. He will help regardless because he is that type of kid. We are all really happy for him."
There’s plenty of joy in Brooklyn these days. The win over Memphis lifted the Nets to 30-29, the first time this season they have been above .500.
They are on a four-game win streak and have won the last three without Kevin Garnett, who is out with back spasms. Garnett will not make the trip to Boston for Friday night’s game against the Celtics.
The Nets have found their defensive swagger: The Nets are a swarm.
Since Jan. 1, they lead the NBA in forced turnovers per game (17.6) and points off turnovers per game (21.1).
“It's great,'' Paul Pierce said. "It just shows we are growing, we are getting better.
“Like I said before, it's not always how you start, it's how you finish, and I think with the way we've been playing since the turn of the new year, this is the Nets team I envisioned from the beginning of the season."