It wasn't pretty, and for the most part their big stars had almost little to contribute on Saturday night, but the Nets did just enough to hold off one of the NBA's worst franchises, the Milwaukee Bucks, 107-98 concluding a six game road trip at 4-2.
More importantly, the Nets are now a game under .500, at 28-29, a record they will bring home Monday against the Chicago Bulls.
Was it the kind of performance one would expect against the hapless Bucks? No. The Nets struggled to shake off the Bucks for much of the evening. Three times, Brooklyn built leads of 10 or more, and each time the Bucks came back to cut the Nets lead to as little as four or five points.
Yet, the hero of the night had to be the newest Net, Marcus Thorton and this Nets bench. Thorton led the Nets with 25 points. He was 4-for-4 in the second quarter and 13 points to keep New Jersey in front by the slim margin of 55-53. In the fourth quarter he helped ice with four of eight shooting in the final period, including two big three pointers down the stretch.
The Nets needed every point that Thorton and the bench contributed. They got nothing from Deron Williams (6-of-16, 15 points); Joe Johnson (2-of-9, 7 points), and Paul Pierce (3-of-7, 12 points). Heck, Kevin Garnett didn't even suit up for this game.
So the Nets had to rely on the shooting of Thorton, Andre Blatche (19 points), and the inside pressence of Shaun Livingston to get the job done. Livingston was a monster, especially in the third quarter. He finished with 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting.
The game was a bit of a microcosm of this Nets team. They have struggled to get consistently good performances from their big players, and have had to rely on their lesser known pieces to get the job done. Tonight it worked. Will it work against the likes of Chicago, Miami and Indiana is another story.
Yet, here are the Nets a game under .500. A couple months ago when this team was just awful at 10-21, with Head Coach Jason Kidd on the hot seat in December this team has turned it around. While Kidd is still learning the facets of coaching, he's game management has improved. The results are there too. The Nets are 18-8 in their last 26 games.
The playoffs are very likely for this team, especially in the horrendous Eastern Conference. But the Nets still struggle rebounding; still struggle shooting from the behind the arch, and the age and propensity for their big guys, like Williams and Garnett to slump during games is a big concern too. Winning is going to be huge for this team as it heads down the stretch -- they do not want to get saddled with the seven or eight seed, where they will have to face Miami or Indiana in the first round.
Winning the Atlantic is still a possibility, since Toronto leads by only 3.5 games. The six and fifth seeds are also out there too for the taking.
While Saturday night won't blow you out of your seat, the Nets 4-2 road trip lets us all know that Brooklyn is coming.