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Nets hang tough in win over Nuggets

Squander Most of 29-Point Lead Before Pulling Out 116-111 Victory

December 8, 2016 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn native Isaiah Whitehead soars for two of his career-high 14 points during the Nets’ win over Denver Wednesday night at the Barclays Center. Earlier in the day, Whitehead had his No. 15 jersey retired at Lincoln High School. AP Photo
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The Nets appeared to be going down a very familiar path Wednesday night at Downtown’s Barclays Center, turning a seemingly easy win into a potentially devastating loss.

But this time, they hung on for a satisfying and well-deserved 116-111 victory over the visiting Denver Nuggets before an announced crowd of 14,159 at Brooklyn’s home for NBA basketball.

“We deserved that game,” Sean Kilpatrick said after pouring in 22 points, including six clutch free throws down the stretch after the Nets had squandered all but two of a 29-point cushion.

Brook Lopez paced six Nets in double figures with 24 points, Bojan Bogdanovic had 19, Joe Harris added 16 off the bench, Trevor Booker put up 15 and Brooklyn’s own Isaiah Whitehead finished with a career-best 14 a day after his alma mater, Lincoln High School, retired his No. 15 jersey.

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“There was something in us that really said we had to sustain the lead,” noted Kilpatrick. “They threw a couple punches at us, but we were able to counter them with the fact that we started get more physical at the end.”

The Nets led 92-63 after Whitehead buried a 3-pointer with just under six minutes remaining in the third quarter, but the Nuggets — spearheaded by Wilson Chandler’s 27-point effort off the bench — roared back to shave the deficit to 111-109 in the closing seconds of regulation.

Booker made one of two free throws with 12 seconds to go, giving Denver a chance to tie the contest on its next trip, but Nuggets veteran guard Jameer Nelson threw away the ensuing inbound pass.

Bogdanovic and Kilpatrick each drained a pair of free throws in the waning moments to ice Brooklyn’s first win in four games, shaking off Monday’s second-half collapse here against Washington.

“We took a punch — two punches, maybe five punches — but we got off the floor and finished it out,” first-year head coach Kenny Atkinson said after the Nets improved to 6-15 on the season and a comparatively respectable 5-7 at home.

“We got stagnant,” Atkinson added when asked about the Nuggets’ game-changing 32-8 run spanning the third and fourth quarters. “When you’re up 29, you can settle into some of those [3-point] shots and we just need to avoid that.”

The win had to be extra special for Whitehead, who on Tuesday afternoon attended the Lincoln Boys & Girls game at his old gymnasium.

His jersey was hung alongside the great Lincoln legends of the past, including Stephon Marbury, Sebastian Telfair and Lance Stephenson.

“Being compared to those guys since eighth or ninth grade [and then] to finally be up there with them, it’s a great accomplishment,” said Whitehead, who was named New York’s Mr. Basketball during his four-year tenure at the school, as well as capturing both a city and state title for the Railsplitters.

Whitehead and the Nets will now embark on a Texas Two-Step through the Longhorn State, visiting the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday and Houston on Monday before returning to Brooklyn next Wednesday to host the Los Angeles Lakers.

* * *

In local college hoops news, senior guard Yunus Hopkinson established career highs with 28 points and 10 rebounds Wednesday night on Remsen Street, pacing St. Francis Brooklyn to a 69-51 rout of Division III Mount Saint Vincent.

The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Terriers (2-7), and gave seventh-year head coach Glenn Braica his 100th career victory at the diminutive Downtown school.

Braica, a Brooklyn native and longtime assistant under former SFC coach Ron Ganulin, became the second fastest in program history to reach the milestone, just behind Daniel Lynch, who guided the Terriers from 1948-1969.

Hopkinson made 8-of-17 shots from the floor, including 4-of-10 on 3-point attempts. He also went 8-of-12 at the line for SFC, which got 13 points from freshman guard Rasheem Dunn and 10 each from sophomore Glenn Sanabria and freshman Robert Montgomery.

The Terriers will try to complete their first two-game winning streak of the year Saturday afternoon at Canisius.

Iverson Fleming scored 16 points Tuesday night in Durham, North Carolina, but the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds suffered a 79-56 defeat to North Carolina Central to drop their second straight.

The Blackbirds (6-3) went 4-3 during an epic seven-game trip that also saw them make stops in Boston, Lowell, Hartford and San Antonio.

LIU will finally be back in the Downtown area Sunday for a noon tipoff at the Barclays Center against St. John’s.

Over at Brooklyn College, the Bulldogs (2-5) suffered a 97-83 loss to CUNYAC rival Lehman on Tuesday night 19 points and 10 rebounds by 6-foot-9 center and Midwood High School alum Enees Nikovic.

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