PHILADELPHIA — This is what “by committee” looks like.
Flying around the court to make plays on the defensive end. Double-teaming the workhorse before he realizes the help has arrived. Hitting timely buckets when your star has put the team on his back. Ultimately, doing what it takes to secure a win, no matter who’s available on your team.
The Nets did everything against the Sixers that they didn’t do in their blowout loss in the opener against the Bucks.
With no Kyrie Irving, and against unmatchable Sixers big man Joel Embiid, the Nets passed their pop quiz with a 114-109 win on the road Friday. The subject was chemistry, and make no mistake, the beginning of this season will be one big experiment.
Project No. 1 is a developing situation: Who will step up to support Kevin Durant?
Durant recorded his 13th career triple-double against the Sixers on Friday with 27 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists on the night. But as the Nets seeped into an early 14-point deficit, it was clear he couldn’t do it just by himself.
Durant needed help, and James Harden’s shot (7 of 17 from the field) wasn’t falling.
So the Nets went to LaMarcus Aldridge, time and time again. Aldridge may very well be the Nets’ new starting center after the performance he put on at the Wells Fargo Center.
The veteran big man was automatic from the mid-range and finished with 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting. He was a revelation defensively, as well: After Embiid all but bullied Nic Claxton, who got the start at the center for Brooklyn, Aldridge brought a physical presence. The Nets outscored the Sixers by 18 in his minutes on the floor.
Next comes Project No. 2, a task the Nets will need to prepare for every night they step onto the floor. Which lineups and rotations does head coach Steve Nash trust to secure a win?
Against the Sixers, Nash played just four bench players real minutes: Aldridge, Paul Millsap, Patty Mills and Jevon Carter.
Mills shot a perfect 3 of 3 from downtown and is now 10 of 10 from 3 in his first two regular-season games as a Net. Carter hounded every point guard the Sixers deployed and earned playing time over Bruce Brown with his ability to shoot the 3.
Embiid finished with 19 points and eight rebounds but was unable to continue his dominance after the Nets went away from Claxton and went to Aldridge. Sixers scorers Seth Curry and Tobias Harris each scored 23 points, but cooled significantly in the second half.
Meanwhile the Nets ramped up their effort after falling behind 14 in the first half. The committee replacing Irving and compensating for Brooklyn’s shortcomings showed up against the Sixers. Now they just need to show up in the first quarter.