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The Nets have been among the NBA’s hottest teams bridging last weekend’s All-Star break, having won 11 of 12 after Thursday’s key victory over the Celtics.
That surge started one game after the Nets lost on the road Feb. 9 to the team presently with the worst record in the Eastern Conference, the Pistons, to fall to 14-12 on the season.
Now contending with the 76ers for the top spot in the East — even without Kevin Durant (hamstring) as part of the Big 3 alongside James Harden and Kyrie Irving — the Nets admit they’re looking forward to facing the Pistons (10-27) again, Saturday night at Barclays Center.
“That was a game that turned the tide for us and allowed us to get it going, but [Saturday] is going to be interesting,” veteran forward Jeff Green said after a late-afternoon practice on Friday. “Their personnel is a little bit different. Obviously, Blake [Griffin] is not there. He’s here.
“But we owe them one. We owe them one and need to come out with the same focus we’ve had the last 10-plus games.”
Griffin will sit out a second straight game since signing with the Nets earlier this week. He officially accepted a contract buyout last week from the rebuilding Pistons, who also dealt Derrick Rose to the Knicks on Feb. 8.
“They beat us last time, so that’s a good opportunity for us,” Harden said after Thursday’s win over the Celtics. “Obviously, Blake is here with us now, but they still have some really good pieces over there.
“We don’t take any opponent lightly, I think it’s all about us and our approach mentally going into games, and that should take care of itself.”
Nets coach Steve Nash agreed, however, that the previous loss to Detroit served as a turning point for his surging team. The Nets also had lost early-season games to other teams with losing records, including the Wizards (twice), Cavaliers (twice) and Thunder.
“There’s two reasons that’s accurate, other than the obvious,” Nash said Friday. “The two equally obvious reasons are, one, we’ve got to try to get better every night. So if we focus and lock in, that gives you a chance to improve. And then, two, we want to finish with as many wins as possible and see where our standing is at the end of the year.
“Of course there’s gonna be nights that we’ll be challenged with health or whatever it may be in the second half and we’re not gonna probably have it every single night, but the attitude, the endeavor, the commitment every night is what’s gonna make us better by the end of the year.”
Green added that the February loss to the Pistons “exposed us” and provided the Nets “an awareness of what we needed to do to become who we wanted to become.” He was one of several players to speak in the locker room following that game.
“I can’t recall word for word what I said, I don’t think I could say it on here [on Zoom], but we all listened and we all said our piece and made changes. And it was changes for the good,” Green said.
“I think we just came together,” added Bruce Brown, who played for the Pistons last season. “We talked after that game, talked about a lot, went over a lot in practice, the defensive rotations and what we’ve got to do offensively.
“[The loss] definitely pissed us off. We thought we dropped a game we should have won, for sure. But we’re going to lock into this game [Saturday] and try to give it everything we’ve got.”