Whatever got into the Nets during their final two games before the All-Star break, they should bottle it.
After an unlikely road win in Indiana, the Nets took down the Denver Nuggets (33-21) Wednesday night in the Barclays Center, 119-108. The Nets won their second consecutive game without starting point guard Deron Williams, who is nursing ankle inflammation.
The Nets had plenty of players fill his shoes.
Gerald Wallace was Mr. Everything, collecting eight points, nine rebounds, five assists, three blocked shots, and a game-high plus-22 rating. Joe Johnson added 26 points while C.J. Watson, filling in for the injured Williams, scored a season-high 25 points.
Both the players and coach harkened back to their blowout loss to the San Antonio Spurs Sunday night, and P.J. Carlesimo believed his team displayed a different attitude and mindset.
“(I’d like to see) consistency from game to game, to play with the confidence and enthusiasm we’ve played the last two games,” Carlesimo said. “We got away from hanging our head and feeling badly for ourselves or getting distracted by officials or missing shots.”
Even when the team faced a Denver run in the fourth quarter that threatened a one-time 20-point lead, the Nets exemplified resiliency.
“Whatever happened we dealt with it,” Carlesimo added. “They were fine in the huddle, they weren’t sitting there looking at the floor waiting for something bad to happen. They felt good... I think that was really significant, the way we’ve handled the psyche of the last two games.”
An outspoken Wallace welcomed the way the team responded to the Spurs loss.
“We had two good wins,” Wallace said. “I think the team pulled together, especially with Deron going down... I think we responded well, not only to San Antonio, but the Washington game as well.”
The positive feeling emanated through the locker room. Kris Humphries joked with Brook Lopez about how many three-pointers the Nets center would hoist in the All-Star Game while Wallace discussed fishing during his hiatus.
Wallace hopes the Nets sustain the positive vibes.
“I’m still trying to figure it out. You walk in this locker room and you never know what you’re going to get,” Wallace said. “It just shows when we comes to play and everybody’s playing, the ball’s moving, swinging and we’re talking on defense, we’re pretty hard to beat.”
The mindset changed, as did the offense. While the Nets’ offense customarily gets bogged down in isolation offense and frantic shot-clock heaves, their flow against the Nuggets made for a welcome change.
They set a season-high by dishing out 29 assists, a healthy number for a team ranking next to last in the league in passing. The Nets bested their season average by 10 assists.
Johnson, ordinarily an isolation scorer, paced the Nets with a season-high nine assists.
“I think it was just the way the team was playing together,” Lopez said. “It’s a huge confidence-builder, a lot of momentum for us.”
In the second half, Lopez hopes the Nets receive more of the same.
“I think we just continue to do what we did in these two games,” Lopez said. “These two games are a great microcosm of what we should expect the second half of the season.”
“I feel good,” Johnson said. “I feel like we’re in a good place right now.”
In addition to their ball movement, the Nets shot 54.7 percent from the field. That figure included 16 three-pointers.
“I think we played great team-ball,” Lopez added. “We have confidence in each other and we’re just playing together. I think that’s the most important part.”