Nets are not buying into all the hype surrounding ‘big’ games

The last time the Nets were involved in a so-called “statement game”, they were drummed out of their own building by NBA-best Golden State, whose defense shut them down. The next opportunity to compete against one of the league’s best teams comes Saturday night at the Barclays Center against the Suns, who took a winning streak of 14 games into the game against the Knicks on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

After the Golden State blowout, the Nets (14-5) responded with four wins in a row and have risen to the top of the Eastern Conference, but after their last win Wednesday night in Boston, superstars James Harden and Kevin Durant downplayed the importance of matching each other. up with the Suns (15-3 before meeting the Knicks) as nothing but media hype.

“It’s 20 games inside the season,” Harden said. “It is not a measure. We are still trying to find ourselves and our identity. We do not measure – we let you all, the media, blow it up and talk about it … For us, we focus on ourselves and get better , and that’s all we can control. “

Durant confirmed that verdict, saying, “From the outside looking in, I understand the records and narratives surrounding games, but I don’t think it can tell us too much about what might happen in the future.”

Either way, it feels like the loss to Golden State not only told the Nets how much better they were going to get, but also reinforced the importance of playing a strong defense as part of their identity. In Boston, Celtics stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown held a total of 28 points on 9 of 31 shots on the field. They need a similar effort against the Suns’ big 3 by Devin Booker, Chris Paul and DeAndre Ayton.

“We were organized,” Nets coach Steve Nash said of the defense against the Celtics after Friday’s training session. “We came back early and tried to remove their first action and showed a lot of support from our auxiliary defenders.”

Unlike Harden and Durant, Nash did not reject the idea that the Suns provided some sort of yardstick, but he said the important thing is what it tells the Nets about their process and their progress.

Asked if a win would be a confidence booster, Nash said: “I think it would help. I think we are on a journey to get better over the course of the year. If we win a scale game or lose a scale “games, I’m more concerned with continuing to trend in the right direction. Are we becoming clearer in our identity and our principles? That’s what I’m looking at, not always victory or loss.”

Notes and quotes: Bruce Brown (tight left thigh) practiced Friday and appears to be ready to go. “I thought he looked good,” Nash said. “Sounds like he has a good chance.” … Joe Harris (sprained left ankle) will miss his sixth straight game … Nash said Blake Griffin, who was out in Boston after being replaced by LaMarcus Aldridge as the starting center, could continue to sit. “I’ve talked to him,” Nash said. “Right now we’re experimenting and I’m looking at other things and giving other guys the opportunity. He’s been amazing.”

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