Better late than never

carter_350.jpgEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Nets and their fans can get used to this. But not exactly how it happened Monday.
The Nets had to do it without Devin Harris in the second half, which they hope doesn’t become a common occurrence. The bottom line, though, is they got it done.
It was another come-from-behind victory. It was a first for this season. It was a 98-90 win over the Sacramento Kings that gave the Nets the first back-to-back home victories of this season.
“Yeah,” Jarvis Hayes said, “that’s a first, huh?”
Amazingly, it is. It took the Nets 19 games but they have a home winning streak. And think about what it took for the Nets to have a home winning streak.
They needed to come back from 20 down Friday against the Hawks and needed a Vince Carter 30-foot jumper at the buzzer in overtime to win the first game.
Last night, they needed to come back from 13 down, without Harris, and needed Yi Jianlian’s first 20-10 double-double in nearly two months to get the second one.
They also needed a stalwart second-half defensive performance to limit Kevin Martin, who embarrassed the Nets with 25 points in the first half.
The biggest things they should take out of this is that they can play this kind of defense, and Yi can have games like this. Forget that they’ve been few and far between, especially the Yi part.
But the Nets have to make sure they have another strong game Wednesday and do what they can to get Yi involved because it looks like they could be without Harris on Wednesday when Memphis comes to town, and they go for an unprecedented three wins in a row.
“We’ve just got to keep it going,” Hayes said. “Collectively, I think we’re playing better defensively. When you have off nights, defense will keep you in the game. On some nights, offense can go up and down, but if defense is consistent, you’ll be in almost all the games.
“We’ve played pretty good defense the last four or five games. We just got to keep up the intensity.”
The Nets have to try to make sure they don’t fall behind big again, though.
You can only come back from that so many times. If they wouldn’t have done so against the Kings, losers of 11 straight road games now, this would have been an awful defeat for the Nets, even if they didn’t have Harris after halftime.
They made sure it didn’t happen, though, by holding Martin to 11 points after halftime, and by limiting the Kings to 35 points in the second half – two fewer than Sacramento scored in the second period.
The Nets made sure it didn’t happen because Yi played big with 22 points and 13 rebounds, including some huge offensive boards. And because Carter was the perfect playmaker with 17 points and five assists in the second half. And because Josh Boone rebounded and defended, and Keyon Dooling defended and knocked down shots and because Trenton Hassell defended.
All of that went into this win against a team that fell to 8-27, which is why it would have been terrible if the Nets would have lost. But they battled and fought and everyone contributed in Harris’ absence. Now they have a home winning streak – two months after their first game here. You know what they say: better late than never.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)  

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