The Nets finished the month of December with a wretched 5–11 record, a superstar adrift, and, by the way, an entirely new coach. January looked unlikely to begin much better, with a road game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, perhaps the best team in the Western Conference and a team with a twelve-game winning streak. So of course the Nets came out and played their best game of the year.
In their second consecutive road game against a Western Conference power, the Nets stunned everyone last night by stepping up and knocking around the Thunder 110–93. The Nets jumped out to a sixteen-point lead at halftime, withstood the inevitable Thunder third-quarter run, and put the game away in the fourth. It is as impressive a road win as the Nets have had all year and, all told, is more impressive of a win than even the Knicks have had all season. It's the type of win that gets a team going again.
The key player was Joe Johnson, who had his best game as a Net. (Considering he's the fifth-highest-paid player in the NBA, that occasionally comes in handy.) He scored 33 points, 20 in the first half, and hit some key buckets in the fourth quarter after the Thunder had come back to tie it. Also having a nice game: Deron Williams, of the maligned point guard Williamses, who had nineteen points and thirteen assists and appeared to have some pep in his step for the first time in a while.
It was the Platonic ideal of a Nets game, and it couldn't have come at a better time, on the heels of a wipeout by the Spurs. And suddenly, the schedule looks a lot brighter. You could argue that the Nets have six winnable games in a row:
There are some wins to be found in that set there. P.J. Carlesimo is now 3–1 as interim coach. If he can find four or five wins in that batch, he might not be moving down the bench for a while.