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Nets suffer 3rd-quarter KO in loss to Rockets

LeVert carried off following vicious screen by Houston’s Nene

February 7, 2018 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Caris LeVert rises for two of his nine points Tuesday night at Barclays Center before leaving the game with a concussion following a violent and borderline illegal screen set by Houston’s Nene. AP Photo by Kathy Willens
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The Nets got back to competing the way head coach Kenny Atkinson expects them to against the Houston Rockets Tuesday night at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

At least until the end of the third quarter, when Rockets big man Nene delivered what proved to be the game’s crushing blow.

The hulking 6-foot-11 Brazilian caught Brooklyn guard Caris LeVert with a vicious screen just as he was chasing down Rockets point man Chris Paul, who beat the buzzer with an easy layup.

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The violent collision clearly shook up the Nets as they watched a four-point lead dissolve into a 10-point deficit entering the fourth quarter en route to a 123-113 loss to Houston in front of 15,064 fans on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.

“I think it moved all of us,” Atkinson admitted after watching LeVert get assisted off the court and immediately go into the league’s concussion protocol while players gathered around a pool of blood that had gathered on the hardwood.

“I think we’re all affected, but we’re professionals and guys moved on. Obviously, we missed Caris the player. He was playing really well, so that was a big blow.”

After getting beat by double digits in five of their previous six games, the Nets appeared to answer Atkinson’s call to get back to their “DNA” vs. the Rockets.

They ran up and down with one of the league’s most explosive teams and did a good job of limiting Houston’s 3-point opportunities.

Spencer Dinwiddie’s high, arching, 33-footer gave them an 84-80 lead with 3:38 remaining in the third quarter before the wheels fell off what could have been one of Brooklyn’s most impressive wins of the campaign.

Nene began the surge with a five-footer in the lane and capped it by knocking LeVert out of the game during Paul’s drive to the basket just prior to the third-quarter buzzer, giving Houston a 96-86 advantage.

“I think we competed better than we did against Milwaukee,” noted Atkinson, referring to Sunday’s 109-94 drubbing at the hands of the Bucks here at Barclays.

“It’s pick your poison with [Houston], so we never really found a solution to stop them.”

The poison came in the form of 36 points from James Harden and 25 from Paul as the Rockets rolled to their fifth straight victory and ninth win in 10 games while handing Brooklyn its third consecutive defeat and sixth in seven contests.

The Nets took exception to what was deemed a legal screen on LeVert and vented their frustrations following what ultimately proved to be yet another double-digit loss.

“Caris went down and it sucked the life out of us,” said veteran forward DeMarre Carroll, who continues to be the subject of trade rumors as the NBA’s Thursday trade deadline approaches.

“You know when you’re a father and something happens to your kid at day care? I was feeling like getting thrown out just because of that fact [the nature of the play].”

Though Atkinson stayed clear of accusing the officials of negligence following the ugly incident, Carroll continued to state his case that Nene had taken advantage of a defenseless defender.

“In the end of the day, I felt like we don’t know if it’s legal or illegal …They [the referees] could show us some decency and watch it on film — just to see [if it was legal],” he said. “But that’s neither here nor there. We just have to carry by and hopefully, he’ll be back with us soon.” 

Carroll finished with a team-high 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting as he continues to pad his resume for a potential move to a contending team by Thursday afternoon.

The Nets’ undisputed locker room leader is averaging 14.2 points and 5.1 rebounds while shooting 44.3 percent from the field over his last 10 games. According to multiple published reports, he has drawn interest from Miami and Detroit, whom the Nets will visit Wednesday night.

Dinwiddie had 18 points and nine assists and Jahlil Okafor added 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting for Brooklyn, which will be back at Barclays on Saturday to kick off a three-game homestand against New Orleans.

Nothing But Net: Forbes released its list of NBA team valuations on Wednesday morning, indicating that all 30 teams are worth at least $1 billion. The Nets came in sixth overall with a valuation of $2.3 billion, ranking sixth overall and $1.3 billion behind the archrival Knicks … With the acquisition of guard Rashad Vaughn on Monday, the Nets now have four players who were selected in the first round of the 2015 NBA Draft. Vaughn joins Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Okafor and D’Angelo Russell. Vaughn, who played for the Bucks here on Sunday, actually got in Tuesday night’s game in the final four minutes, but he is still seeking his first points as a Net.


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