Moke Hamilton, SNYNets.comNEW YORK — Over the course of the resurgence, the Nets have been overlooked and ridiculed for taking advantage of a stretch which saw it play some inferior competition. And although the Indiana Pacers were on the second night of a back-to-back, it's difficult to diminish the quality of the 97-86 win P.J. Carlesimo's team had over the Pacers on Sunday night.
With the win, the Nets are 6-0 in the month of January and are winners of eight of their last nine.
Entering Sunday night's game at Barclays Center, the Pacers had won 13 of its last 16 games and opened up a two game lead on the Chicago Bulls for the lead in the NBA's Central division.
The Nets knew that coming in and took this game as a challenge.
"A lot of our wins have come against sub-par .500 teams," Deron Williams said of the Nets current win streak. "[The Pacers] is a playoff team which we have struggled against a lot this year... This is a big win for us."
The Nets trailed by as many as 12 points in the game's third quarter and entered the fourth trailing by six. Then, the team collectively pulled together, rallied behind a spirited defensive effort, and went on an improbable 17-0 run that saw an eight point fourth quarter deficit turn into a nine point fourth quarter lead.
A word that's been used a lot around these Nets lately is "confidence," but after Sunday's victory, a more appropriate word to use would probably be "belief."
This team looks like it believes that it can win any game, and that's evident in the spirit its shown recently, even when facing daunting circumstances.
Even though Deron Williams (thigh contusion) and Joe Johnson (illness) were limited and Gerald Wallace was out, the Nets overcame a 5-for-14 shooting night from Brook Lopez (15 points) and out-hustled the Pacers over the course of the game's 48 minutes, outrebounding the Pacers 47-39 and winning the battle of the offensive glass, 16-9.
Collectively, the team shot 31 free-throws to just 12 for Pacers. The Nets also won the battle of second chance points, 16-6.
All in all, it was a quality win without a starter and one that should garner some respect from some of the NBA's other elite teams.
"We pride ourselves that we have a strong, tough bench and when a guy like Gerald is out, we definitely miss him a lot out there, but Bogans was ready to play today and MarShon was ready to play today and we got a lot of production from C.J. today, who had a huge game today and played key down the stretch for us," Williams said. "It's one of those things where a guy is out but we have other guys who are ready to lace 'em up and ready to go."
Williams did mention Keith Bogans—who started for the injured Wallace—and he gave the Nets 22 solid minutes. "We're playing good basketball right now," Bogans said. "[This] was a test for us to come out against a good team and see how we'd respond. We didn't play the way we wanted to in the first half, but we responded in the second half."
Fortunately for the Nets, Wallace wasn't missed too much, but that may have also had something to do with Kris Humphries somewhat triumphant return. After missing nine of the Nets previous 12 games, Humphries played 18 solid minutes off the bench on Sunday, chipping in 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting and pulling down nine rebounds.
The Nets got 30 total bench points and managed to overcome a 27 point effort from David West (11-for-19).
"You have to give credit to the Nets," Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said after the game. "They were clearly the more aggressive team... You have to tip your hat."
With the victory, the Nets managed to keep pace with the New York Knicks, who defeated the New Orleans Hornets at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks lead in the Atlantic division remains just two games, and though neither time wants to look ahead too far, the fourth and final battle between the two teams on Jan. 21 is rapidly approaching.
Perhaps as a reward for their winning ways, after getting Saturday off, Carlesimo has given his Nets Monday off, as well. The team will return to action on Tuesday when it hosts the Toronto Raptors and will then travel to Atlanta to play the Hawks on Wednesday night.
For Joe Johnson, it will be his first visit to Atlanta after spending seven years with the club.
"It'll be fun... It's always great to see some familiar faces," he said of his return. "[I'll] get a chance to play against some old teammates and good friends, so I'm sure it'll be a lot of fun."
Along with "confidence" and "belief," "fun" is probably another recurring theme surrounding Carlesimo's Nets. Winning is fun, of course. And in Brooklyn, the good times are rolling.