The good news is the way the Brooklyn Nets have bounced back during their Orlando experience following one-sided losses that came in their scrimmage and seeding schedule openers. After that loss to Orlando a week ago, they responded with a crucial playoff positioning win over Washington and then a stunning, shorthanded upset of Milwaukee.
That resilience is on deck again after Wednesday’s 149-115 loss to Boston, as the Nets play the Sacramento Kings Friday at 5 p.m.
“I think it’s just the ebbs and flows of the NBA,” said Joe Harris on Wednesday night. “I think you have to be able to take the good with the bad and we still have to hold together. We can't let this loss break us up as a group or deter our spirit. We have a lot of games left to play down here. We have to bounce back, have a good practice tomorrow and get ready for Sacramento on Friday.”
When the Wizards lost on Wednesday afternoon — they’ve dropped all four of their seeding games so far — the Nets had a chance to clinch their playoff berth against the Celtics. Going into Friday’s schedule, Brooklyn’s magic number is one. A win over the Kings or a Washington loss to New Orleans on Friday night will clinch a return to the playoffs for the Nets.
“As far as level of urgency, I feel like we need to have that each and every night,” said Caris LeVert. “Obviously it would have been nice to secure that spot tonight, but there’s always another opportunity. Friday’s another day, another opportunity for us to go out there and compete for a full 48 minutes as a team. I think we’ll be ready for that task.”
MARTIN HITS A CAREER-HIGH
Rookie guard Jeremiah Martin made an impact on the defensive end in Tuesday’s win against Milwaukee, with his pressure on the Bucks’ Donte DiVincenzo denying Milwaukee a final shot and helping to seal the 119-116 win.
Against the Celtics on Wednesday, he showed out on the other end with a career-high 20 points, making 8-of-12 shots, including 2-of-4 from 3-point range and dishing four assists in 16 minutes.
“He’s just playing with a lot of energy, and to see him continue to work on his game at practice, on the off days and for him to have success on the floor, and for me as a coach, it doesn’t matter what time of the game it is,” said head coach Jacque Vaughn. “Whether he’s starting or finishing a game, in a game that’s a three-point game or a 30-point game. The way I was raised in this league, it means something. So it shows that he has some fight in him, and it was good to see him have some success.”
Martin was signed as a two-way player in January, and played mostly in Long Island for the next two months before the NBA season has suspended. The restart in Orlando has brought an opportunity for a greater role, and Martin’s has taken advantage to make a strong impression.
“Jeremiah's been great since the moment he's been here,” said Joe Harris. “I loved him even when he was coming up with us as a two-way player and regardless of any situation that he's played in, he's going to compete, he's going to play hard, he's scrappy, plays the right way and I love his energy, his attitude. He's, I think, handled being down here and being in the situation that he's in as well as you could.”
LEVERT IN THE POST
In the ramp-up to the resumption of the season, Jacque Vaughn talked about Caris LeVert growing his game, with the responsibility of being Brooklyn’s prime offensive option also presenting the opportunity and freedom to expand his repertoire.
Some of that was on display in Sunday’s win over Washington, with LeVert working out of the mid-post on his way to 34 points against the Wizards. This was a new wrinkle that Vaughn had held back on through Brooklyn’s three-game scrimmage schedule. But after the Magic blitzed LeVert on pick-and-rolls in the previous game, it presented a new way for LeVert to have control over his matchups while offering options, whether that meant getting to the rim quicker, stepping back out, or passing out of double-teams that take longer to develop.
“It slows us down,” said Garrett Temple. “It gives us a spot to go to in the half court. An area to go to when we want to get a good shot. I think it just settles us down. We feel like Caris can have an advantage over basically anyone who’s guarding him, and if not then we can get a switch and allow him to have an advantage with somebody on the court. He feels comfortable at that spot. I think it helps that he spent a little bit of time with (Kevin Durant) this summer working out. I think it’s been good. It’s good for us. It’s an area that we’ve gone to it and we feel comfortable with Vert getting to his spots.”
ABOUT THE KINGS
The Kings are 29-39 after dropping their first three games in Orlando before beating the Pelicans on Thursday.. They’re part of a crowded race to force a play-in for the Western Conference’s eighth playoff seed, and while they’re still in range of eighth-place Memphis, there are now four other teams between them. Guard De’Aaron Fox has jumped out to a hot start in Orlando, averaging 26.7 points on 50.5 percent shooting through four games, and that’s while shooting just 21.1 percent on 4.8 3-point attempts per game.