For most of his 12-game tenure, coach Jacque Vaughn saw the Brooklyn Nets put in enough effort that didn’t warrant serious criticism.
After the Nets suffered an 11-point loss in Philadelphia on Tuesday against an opponent who missed three starters, Vaughn questioned his team’s efforts.
Brooklyn’s performance was significantly better Wednesday in Toronto and Vaughn hopes to see more of the same on Friday night when the Nets visit the Indiana Pacers.
The Nets are 7-5 since Vaughn replaced Steve Nash on Nov. 1, a day after Brooklyn beat Indiana 116-109 and three days after conceding 23 three-pointers in an 11-point loss to Indiana had, which led to a team meeting.
On Wednesday, the Nets earned a 112-98 win over the Raptors, who were without Fred VanVleet, Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam. Brooklyn allowed 34 second chance points and 23 offensive rebounds Wednesday, but also limited Toronto to 35.6 percent shooting, including a strong 7-of-29 from 3-point range after allowing 16 3s on Tuesday.
It was Brooklyn’s second-lowest opponent shooting percentage this season and the sixth time it has conceded under 100 points this season — each occurrence since Vaughn took over.
“You didn’t see that many collapses at the end of the games tonight, the level of focus,” Vaughn said. “A big part of that is keeping each other on a higher level. I thought from the start of the game, you saw that: a lot more talking to each other, a lot more communication, a lot more demanding of each other, which was also great to see.”
Kyrie Irving scored 19 of his 29 points in the third quarter and the Nets survived Kevin Durant being held at a season-low 12 points.
“We’re in the business of winning,” Irving said. “We’re going to take this one, especially after last night’s loss and all the internet going mad about how embarrassed we should be about what’s true. We just wanted to make sure we paid attention to details tonight. We came out and answered.”
Indiana has won five of six, but its five-game winning streak was halted by a tough night at center defense.
In Wednesday’s 115-101 loss to the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves, the Pacers conceded a terrifying 74 points in the paint, resulting in Minnesota shooting 61 percent from the field. Before Wednesday, Indiana was conceding 104.6 points at 40.9 percent of the field in their five-game winning streak.
“We have to defend better and be better on offense, on both sides of the ball,” said Pacers coach Rick Carlisle after his team fired 19 more shots than Minnesota and shot 38.5 percent from the field.
“We need to get back to our defensive principles,” added Indiana Warden Buddy Hield. “We weren’t in the right places tonight. I don’t know what happened out there, but it wasn’t us.”
Carlisle and Indiana are also hoping for another big game from Myles Turner. Turner scored 31 points in his last nine competitions and averaged 20.4 points on 61.2 percent shooting.
Rookie Bennedict Mathurin, who posted a career-high 32 in Brooklyn on Oct. 29, added 21, but Indiana got little of its starting backcourt from Tyrese Haliburton and Aaron Nesmith, who combined went 5 of 24 off the ground.