The New York Knicks are not the only New York team who have figured out this whole basketball thing in the new year. The Brooklyn Nets have recently gotten better at playing basketball and with Wednesday's 102-98 victory over the Golden State Warriors, the Nets accomplished two feats in one fell swoop; in addition to winning their fourth straight game, the Nets also ended the Warriors' own winning streak at 10 games. Remarkably enough, the Nets were able to pull out their victory over the overall superior Warriors without starting point guard Deron Williams, who is dealing with yet another ankle ailment that will cause him to miss extended time.
Also noteworthy was that the Nets won the contest with defense, a continuation of a winning formula that only recently has the team embraced. For most of the season, the Nets defense bore a strong resemblance to tissue paper; with even the slightest amount of force applied to it, in this case, an opponent wishing to navigate through the Nets defense and score points, causing a tear in its fabric.
The Nets were able to hold the Golden State Warriors to just 101.3 points per 100 possessions, well below the 105.9 points per 100 possessions the Warriors have been accustomed to scoring this season. The difference in the efficiency is the result of the Nets limiting the accuracy of the Warriors' three-point shooting; on Wednesday, the Warriors only connected on nine of their 26 three-point attempts (34.6 percent).
As the Warriors are incredibly reliant on the three-pointer for their offensive efficiency, with 29.0 percent of their field goal attempts coming from three-point range, taking away the three-pointer was to take away their most potent offensive weapon. With that done, the road to victory was a lot less arduous for the Nets to travel.
Even so, with the Warriors struggling to connect on three-point attempts in the contest, there were still some tense moments for the Nets in the fourth quarter as they tried to preserve their victory. After falling behind by three points with 4:05 left in the fourth quarter, the Nets then went on to score the next nine points in the game, six of which were provided by shooting guard Joe Johnson, to build a five-point lead with just ten seconds remaining in the period.
Holding that advantage over the Warriors should have made the Nets' win expectancy impregnable, but they were almost undone by a silly foul by Shaun Livingston on Stephen Curry during a three-point attempt; Curry only made two of his 10 three-point attempts in the game. Curry fully capitalized on the gift Livingston had given him by making all three of his free throws to bring the Warriors to within two points with nine seconds left to play.
Yet, despite Livingston's regrettable foul on Curry, the Nets still held all the trump cards as the few remaining seconds on the clock dictated that the Warriors would have to foul the Nets, which would have sent the Nets to the free throw line. Then the Warriors would be forced to pin their hopes on the Nets missing free throws while they shook off their earlier poor shooting and scored points on each of the possessions they managed to squeeze out of nine seconds of game time.
Unsurprisingly, the Nets were not obliging as Kevin Garnett and Joe Johnson combined to make four straight free throw attempts while the Warriors' final two offensive possessions of the game yielded one made jumper and one missed three-pointer by Curry.
With their fourth straight victory, the Nets are loudly announcing to the NBA that they are now a team to be reckoned with. No longer are they unable to stop opposing offenses from scoring at will, and with their improved defense will come more opportunities to score victories over their competition.