No need to jump to concrete conclusions about a four-game winning streak, even if it is the Brooklyn Nets’ longest streak of the season.
When a top-dollar team expected to compete for a conference championship is nearly 10 games under .500 nearly halfway into the season, it looks for any signs of progress it can find.
The Nets are starting to see some signs, beyond the four-game winning streak against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors, three of whom currently are in playoff position.
It starts with defense. In the past four victories, the Nets have held opponents to below their scoring averages.
“Communication, effort and trust,” Nets coach Jason Kidd told news reporters after Wednesday’s impressive win vs. the Warriors, who entered the game on a 10-game winning streak.
The Nets’ run, which moved them into eighth place in the Eastern Conference, coincides with a switch to a smaller lineup, with Livingston making it a three-guard, two-forward starting five.
With Brook Lopez out for the season with a broken right foot and Deron Williams sidelined the past two games and at least the next two because of ankle issues, Kidd had to tinker with the lineup. He’s been looking for a decent combination since Lopez was lost for the season and may have found it with Livingston.
The small lineup has created issues for some teams with size, including the Thunder, Hawks and Warriors.
“The confidence is building, morale is high obviously, but through the cases of when we have guys out, everybody knows we have to pick it up a bit,” Garnett said. “But since the New Year game we’ve obviously tried to turn this thing around not just from an effort standpoint, but for each other.
“It started in OKC, when you start to see guys playing for one another. The small lineup is effective for us, and we have a lot of confidence in it.”
While four games is small sample size, the Nets have been more efficient on both ends of the floor — 10 points better per 100 possessions than their overall season numbers. Garnett is starting to find his place in the offense, Teletovic is shooting 46.9% on threes since Dec. 25 and Johnson’s rough patch of five consecutive games in single digits appears over after consecutive games of 23 and 27 points.
After a difficult start, which included injuries and poor play combined with a new players learning how play together and the Lawrence Frank debacle, the Nets have made small strides. Four games ago, the Nets were headed in a bad direction. They way they were playing, 10-25 was a more realistic possibility than 14-21.
This is no declaration the Nets have turned it around for good. The rest of the month isn’t easy, starting with the Miami Heat on Friday. Seven of their next 10 games against teams with better records.