After spending Thanksgiving Day with family and friends, the Nets will enter their showdown with Phoenix on Saturday sitting atop the Eastern Conference, having won 12 of their last 14.
Those white-hot Suns? The NBA finalists have ripped off 14 in a row, with only a game Friday at the Knicks standing in the way of bringing a 15-game streak into Barclays Center. They’re as tough a test as the Nets, coming off a laugher in Boston that was their most complete performance of the season, could face.
“Yeah definitely. … And we can continue to build on this,” James Harden said. “We go back home, we’ve got the Suns who, obviously, we all know how they’ve been playing. It’s going to be another great test for us. But we’ve got to continue to get better, continue to keep growing, finding things that work, finding things that don’t work on both ends and keep pushing.”
Devin Booker is averaging 23.1 points and Chris Paul is averaging 10.4 assists for the Suns, so Saturday will be a test for the Nets. Just don’t call it a measuring stick.
Win or lose, that’s a narrative the Nets have pushed back against.
“Measuring stick for who? For y’all? Not for us,” Harden scoffed. “If anybody is looking at Saturday as a statement game, it’s not the Nets.
“Nah. It’s 20 games into the season. That’s not no measuring stick. We’re still trying to find ourselves and our identity. We don’t measure — we let y’all, the media, blow it up and talk about it. It don’t give you more wins or more losses.
“Obviously, we want to play well, but we want to play well every game. … They all count for the same. For us, we focus on ourselves and get better, and that’s all we can control.”
The Nets (14-5) think they’ve gotten better since the last so-called measuring-stick game, Nov. 16 versus league-leading Golden State. That night, the Nets took a 117-99 caning from the Warriors, and, frankly, the final score flattered them. It wasn’t that close.
Now, having won four straight since, the Nets have improved. The Suns (15-3) provide a golden opportunity to gauge if those improvements have stuck.
“We’re gauging each and every day. We gauge who you are every day,” Kevin Durant said. “We understand that these teams are coming in, and teams are playing well. But it’s November. Every team wants to be rounding [into] shape. … I’m not saying we want to give away any games. But win or lose, I don’t really think this is going to tell us that much about where we’re headed as a team.
“We obviously want to come out there and stick to our principles and keep getting better at that stuff. From the outside looking in, I understand the records and the narratives around games and stuff, but I don’t think this can tell us too much about what may happen down the line.”
Bruce Brown (hamstring) is expected back Saturday for the Nets. … Kevin Durant — who grew up in Prince George’s County (Md.) — is helping to renovate the Baltimore Bullets’ old arena.
YES Network will air the second half of a sit-down interview with Nets co-owner Clara Wu Tsai during Saturday’s pregame show.