PHILADELPHIA — After the Nets didn’t compete or defend enough in Tuesday’s humiliation in Milwaukee, they were challenged Friday in Philadelphia.
And the Nets responded with a thrilling 114-109 come-from-behind gut-check victory over the Sixers at Wells Fargo Center.
Following a 23-point loss to the champion Bucks, when they got battered on the boards and muscled all over the court, the Nets’ pride got stung. And after falling digging themselves into a two-touchdown first-quarter hole in Philadelphia, they stormed back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth to win.
They closed on a 16-1 run to steal the win.
“The biggest one for us is I don’t think we played hard enough [in Milwaukee]. We lost the 50-50 balls, all that stuff,” coach Steve Nash said. “The mechanisms of our team is going to take time; it’s going to take a long time for us to figure out combinations, rotations, how we all fit together and getting on the same page as far as style of play.
“All that stuff, there’s no cheat sheet or shortcut to that. But the playing hard, the 50-50 balls, the willingness and diligence to stick to our principles and have that discipline to do it time and time again, that’s got to improve.”
They did just that, against a Philadelphia team that finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference last season.
Kevin Durant led the way with a triple-double (29 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists).
James Harden added 20 points, eight assists and seven boards, while LaMarcus Aldridge had an encouraging 23 off the bench.
The Nets came right out and dug themselves into a 20-6 hole, when Joel Embiid (19 points) found Tobias Harris for a 3-pointer with 6:56 left in the first quarter.
Brooklyn was still trailing 108-98 with 5 ½ minutes left, the Nets scored six straight to get it to four with 3:18 to play.
After Danny Green missed a late 3-pointer, Patty Mills’ finger roll pulled Brooklyn within 108-106 with two minutes left. And after Mills missed another, the Nets had a chance to tie. Aldridge and Durant couldn’t connect on a pass, but they converged on Embiid to force a missed finger roll with a minute remaining.
Aldridge got a dunk and one, putting Brooklyn ahead 109-108 with 48 seconds to play.
Tobias Harris (23 points) missed a driving floater from 11-feet away, and Aldridge calmly sank two more free throws for a three-point edge with 16 seconds left in regulation. They held on to ensure there would be no overtime.
And they did it with a fight and grit that had been so sorely and conspicuously absent in Milwaukee.
“Physicality, I mean, the lack of showing up. That had a lot to do with everything that was going on. So I feel like we’re going to come in better [against Philadelphia],” said James Johnson, who took the lack of fight personally.
“Of course. I think we were doing too much talking. We know who we are, and we know what we’re capable of doing and we know every night everybody is going to bring their best. So we’ve got to come out and we can’t be lackadaisical.”
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