When the Nets beat the Celtics in Brooklyn earlier this month, they went out of their way to hype the win up as some kind of breakthrough night for the franchise.
The fact that they were making the same claims after beating the Knicks on Monday night tells you a couple of things. The first is that the Boston win obviously wasn't a breakthrough if you needed to make another breakthrough a little more than a week later and the second is that the Nets organization might be a little too reliant on a junior varsity hype machine.
In past years, they needed that kind of fake hustle to get anyone to pay attention to them. After Wednesday night's 95-83 win in Boston, it's pretty clear that the Nets' play speaks for itself just fine so it might be time to start acting like a varsity program across the board.
The biggest single moment of the game came with 26 seconds left in the first half when Kris Humphries fouled Kevin Garnett and then decided to take an extra swipe at him while Garnett was still coming down from the shot attempt. Humphries' cheap shot was matched by a push from Rajon Rondo, touching off a fight that wound up spilling into the stands and getting Humphries, Rondo and Gerald Wallace ejected from the game.
It's a moment that writes itself -- the Brooklyn coming out in the Nets -- and it's always nice to see a team stand up for itself, but, honestly, it really told you that Humphries and Rondo both mistake being dirty for being tough. That's why toughness was hardly the most telling takeaway from a fourth straight Nets win.
The takeaway is the millionth variation on not judging books by their covers. The two biggest perceived weaknesses of the Nets haven't turned out to be weaknesses at all.
The defense, which looked leakier than a presidential campaign, has been quite efficient so far this season with even Brook Lopez showing some ability at that end of the floor after a career spent impersonating the invisible man near his own hoop. They rank near the top 10 in defensive efficiency, which meshes very well with their expected top 10 ranking on the offensive side of things.
What's even more remarkable, though, is that the expected part of the performance has come from a very unexpected source. The Nets' expensive starting five has been underwhelming thus far, never more so than on Wednesday when they mustered just 43 of the team's points.
Jerry Stackhouse, Andray Blatche and C.J. Watson combined for 47 off the bench to lead the team to the win, something no one saw coming. The bench was expected to be as bad as the defense this season, but it has wound up propelling the team's 10-4 start while the first five try to figure out a way to make things work.
Stackhouse hit five threes and actually got a goaltending violation on Wednesday, a dip into the fountain of youth that would be downright shocking if his college teammate Rasheed Wallace wasn't doing the same thing for the Knicks. Blatche wasn't good enough to be worth the trouble for the Wizards, a team that would sign Charles Manson if he could actually play the game, and now he's putting up double-doubles without acting like a complete buffoon every single night.
Predicting either of these things would have been difficult. Getting them both on the same bench at the same time for the same team wouldn't have been the wildest dream of someone on a basketball-centric acid trip.
The Nets' 10-4 record isn't a surprise. They way they've put it together is and it makes a statement that the Nets aren't going away this season.