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Epic collapse costs Nets third straight win

March 22, 2018 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Dwight Howard had an historic night at the Nets’ expense Wednesday, helping Charlotte rally from 23 down in the second half for a 111-105 victory over Brooklyn at Downtown’s Barclays Center. AP Photo by Kathy Willens

Charlotte ends Brooklyn’s streak with 111-105 victory at Barclays

After using a pair of lock-down, fourth-quarter efforts to put together their first back-to-back wins in two months, the Brooklyn Nets needed yet another Wednesday night to make it three victories in a row for the first time this season.

They didn’t come close to getting it.

Head coach Kenny Atkinson’s crew surrendered 36 points during the final 12 minutes, including a game-ending 18-2 run, as Brooklyn suffered a hard-to-swallow 111-105 loss to the visiting Charlotte Hornets in front of 10,231 diehards who braved a snow storm to witness this epic collapse.

“You know, just disappointed. Sixty-eight point second half and 36 in the fourth. We’ve done a great job the last two games locking down in the fourth quarter and tonight we didn’t do it,” admitted Atkinson, referring back to the Nets’ strong defensive final periods against Dallas and Memphis in the opening two games of this homestand.

It was hard to see this one coming as Brooklyn built a 62-43 halftime advantage, led by as many as 23 points in the second half and was up by 10 with just over four minutes remaining in regulation.

But Dwight Howard, held to only four points in the opening half, scorched the Nets’ interior defense to the tune of 32 points and a franchise-record 30 rebounds before the final buzzer sounded.

Kemba Walker added 24 points, eight of which came during the final four minutes, as the Hornets (31-41) denied the Nets (23-49) their first three-game winning streak since April 1-4 of last season.

“It’s extremely frustrating just because we had some momentum and you’re trying to continue it to Toronto [on Friday], where it’s an especially tough game going on the road against a top team in the East,” noted Joe Harris, who scored 11 points off the bench for Brooklyn.

“So, it’s one of those games where obviously it would have been great to come away with a win, three in a row, have some momentum going into Toronto,” he added. “But we know there are some things we can definitely learn from in this game, and, like I said, we’ll evaluate the film and kind of go from there.”

D’Angelo Russell continued his strong play in March with 19 points and Spencer Dinwiddie and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 13 each for the Nets, who went without a single field goal after Allen Crabbe drained a 3-pointer with 4:11 remaining for a 103-93 Brooklyn lead.

Walker answered with a 3-ball of his own on the ensuing trip and he and Howard combined for 14 of the Hornets’ final 18 points as the Nets imploded in crunch time.

“It’s frustrating because I thought for the most part we were playing a pretty darn good game and had the game under control and then we couldn’t get the requisite stops and that’s frustrating,” said Atkinson.

“Frustrating giving up that many points,” he added. “It’s frustrating to give up 23 offensive rebounds. You know that’s a ton and 47 free throws, I don’t even know what to say about that. That’s just I don’t know, some kind of record.”

Howard’s 30 boards tied the record for the most ever against the Nets, matching Hall of Fame center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who did it back in 1978.

He also became the first NBA player to put up a 30+-point, 30-rebound performance since Kevin Love accomplished the feat for Minnesota back in 2010.

“I mean that’s great to be named with someone like Kareem,” Howard said. “It’s one of the guys I looked up to growing up, him and Wilt Chamberlain.”

“Never been part of something like that,” Walker added. “It was incredible. Yeah, it was incredible to see those kinds of numbers and be a part of it. Yeah, it was crazy.” 

In a season filled with second-half collapses and fourth-quarter flops, the Nets hit a new low with this loss, which sends them off to Eastern Conference-leading Toronto on Friday night hoping for a rebound effort.

“They wanted it more and we got comfortable,” admitted Crabbe, who finished with just nine points on 3-of-9 shooting.

“That’s what happens when you get comfortable, give up leads and we lose so that’s what we did.”

Nothing But Net: Russell’s late-season emergence following a two-month absence due to a knee injury has been one of the major bright spots for Brooklyn down the stretch. The 22-year-old point guard is averaging 19.0 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists while shooting nearly 40 percent from 3-point range during his last five games … Howard became just the eighth player in NBA history to amass a 30-30 game. Chamberlain did it an astounding 124 times during his Hall of Fame career.