Nearly four months ago, the Brooklyn Nets beat the Charlotte Hornets on their home court and began a 12-game winning streak to elevate them from hovering around .500 into the Eastern Conference's upper echelon.
Now following significant roster turnover and acclimating to several new players, the Nets find themselves in a crowded field trying to avoid falling into a play-in game.
After matching the largest comeback in franchise history Friday by storming back for an impressive road win over the Boston Celtics, the Nets hope to get rolling again starting with Sunday's visit from Charlotte.
Brooklyn was 13-12 when it began the streak by holding on for a 122-116 victory over Charlotte on Dec. 7. The streak lasted until Jan. 2 and elevated the Nets from eighth to second in the East. But since then -- due to Kevin Durant's knee injury and trading both him and Kyrie Irving for Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith -- the Nets are 9-16 in their last 25 contests.
Their four new players began as teammates with a 101-98 home loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Feb. 11, and the Nets are 2-6 in their past eight games. They were headed for a fifth straight loss and fourth by double-digits when they trailed by 28 in the first half. However, they stormed back and earned a 115-105 win in Boston -- where they were handed a 43-point loss on Feb. 1.
The Nets faced a 51-23 deficit but over the final 31:23, they outscored the Celtics by a whopping 92-54 margin. It matched the comeback they pulled off Feb. 16, 2022, in New York against the Knicks and March 19, 2019, in Sacramento.
The Nets allowed 130 points per game while matching their longest losing streak of the season. After allowing the Knicks to shoot 60.7 percent, the Nets allowed 53.1 percent in the first half before holding the Celtics to 43 percent in the second half when they also forced 12 turnovers.
"I think we kind or realized over a couple of games that offense wasn't really our problem," Bridges said. "I feel like our offense is pretty good. But our defense, we got stops and stayed together possession by possession.
Bridges helped ensure offense was not problematic after the extremely slow start. He scored 38 points for his third 30-point game with Brooklyn.
Charlotte averaged 122 points during its season-best five game winning streak but heads to Brooklyn trying to avoid a third straight defeat. After being held to its second-lowest point total in Wednesday's 105-91 loss to Phoenix, the Hornets saw a comeback bid fall short in a 117-106 loss to the visiting Orlando Magic on Friday.
Charlotte was done in by allowing 64 points in the paint and 53.5 percent shooting. It marked the 26th time an opponent shot at least 50 percent against the Hornets.
Aside from missing LaMelo Bell to his season-ending ankle injury, P.J. Washington missed his fourth straight with a foot injury. Before sitting out, Washington scored 20 points in his previous four games and he could be out again Sunday.
Without Washington, the Hornets will hope to see another big night from Kelly Oubre Jr., who scored 26 on Wednesday and then finished with 29 on Friday in his fifth game back from surgery on a hand ligament.
"We're not going to be 125 (points) many nights now," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. "When P.J. comes back it'll help. That's a different world. Offense is going to be hard here. We're going to win by playing a lot harder than we did tonight."
--Field Level Media