After nearly letting the game slip away the Brooklyn Nets pulled out a much-needed 113-107 win last night against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Barclays Center.
Blowing a 16-point lead the Nets (34-33) looked as if they were ready to pack it in for their fourth loss in five games. That is until Spencer Dinwiddie put them on his back and sparked them to a 14-0 run with 7:20 left to finish the game over the Cavaliers (16-49).
“I think there was a moment in the fourth quarter where we were desperate. I’m glad we kept our cool though because you know, maybe last year or two years ago we would lose that lead, or the lead would go to 16 or 18,” said Nets Head Coach Kenny Atkinson after the game. “The fact that we kept our cool, weathered the storm and came back was important.”
During the run, Dinwiddie—a sixth-man of the year candidate—scored nine points and two assists, finishing the game with a team high 28 points. But it was a balanced attack from the Nets bench, as Caris LeVert added 14 points on 5 of 12 shooting from the field.
“I think Caris (LeVert) had an important stretch there when we were struggling and couldn’t really score. He made some big plays, started to get downhill, and obviously, Spencer (Dinwiddie) too,“ said Atkinson about his backup guards. “Those two guys, I thought they turned it up. Our offense, we’re struggling. And we really needed those two guys tonight. I think they did a good job.”
D’Angelo Russell also has a big game with 25 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 steals, showing the depth of this Nets backcourt. But still Russell’s gives credit to his teammates, who can be just as, if not more impactful than the All Star.
“Those guys, I don’t think anybody in the league can stay in front of those two. When they’re getting downhill, making it easy for us on the offensive end, that makes everybody’s job easy,” said Russell.
Still, it wasn’t all great against the Cavaliers, who rank at the bottom half of almost every statistical category and are among one of the worst offensive teams in the league.
Even with Brooklyn coming out hot with 31-first quarter-points they looked lost in defense allowing a combined 65 points in the second and third periods.
Atkinson credits their defense, specifically rookie Rodion Kurucs, who is back in the starting lineup. Kurucs played well against Kevin Love (24 points, 16 rebounds) down the stretch, but as a team there are still some kinks left to work out during this final run of the season.
“I thought our defense was good all night. I think we did a pretty good job – they hit a few too many three’s – but for the most part, we defended,” Atkinson told reporters during his postgame conference.
Too many threes is correct. Cleveland made 16 three-pointers on 42 percent from behind the arc. They just had entirely too many open looks and while Kurucs played well against Love, the former All Star still shot 50 percent from three-point land.
But a win is a win and the Nets are in the midst of an intense battle to remain in playoff contention. They currently sit in the seventh seed a point behind the Detroit Pistons and three and a half games ahead of the Miami Heat who are on a three game winning streak—both teams were in the win column last night. While Detroit and Miami are currently in the playoffs,
The Orlando Magic and Charlotte Hornets still have a legitimate chance of finding their way into the postseason as well.
With 15 games left—10 of which are in the road—the Nets have the second toughest schedule in the NBA. Their next game in Atlanta on Saturday against the Hawks is even more important than their win against the Cavaliers. They return to Brooklyn for one more game against Detroit on Monday before a seven-game road trip that starts against the Oklahoma City Thunder and ends with the Philadelphia 76ers.