Nets pull out double-OT thriller at Barclays against Charlotte
Harris’ steal and layup provides difference in win over Charlotte
The Nets have endured so many “teachable moments” over the past three years that they have finally become adept at teaching others a lesson.
Especially when it comes to the subject of resilience.
Brooklyn survived the usual offensive onslaught from Charlotte’s Kemba Walker, overcame a pair of critical missed free throws by DeMarre Carroll and even got bailed out a few times thanks to some mind-bending mistakes by the Hornets Wednesday night at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
It all added up to a scintillating 134-132 victory over Charlotte in front of 14,309 fully engaged fans on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, giving the surging Nets their ninth victory in 10 games and moving them within a half-game of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
None of this seemed even remotely possible three weeks ago when Brooklyn capped off a season-high eight-game losing streak with a heartbreaking 114-112 loss to Oklahoma City at Barclays.
But head coach Kenny Atkinson insisted that the narrow margin of his team’s defeats during the skid, coupled with their ongoing development, would ultimately lead to better results.
And it has, in an unexpectedly grand fashion.
Not only did the Nets become just the fifth team in the history of the NBA to follow a losing streak of eight games with a winning streak of seven or better, but they are finding ways to pull out games that appear all but lost.
That was something that seemingly never happened when they went a collective 69-177 over the previous three campaigns.
But Wednesday night again proved that this team is unwilling to go gently into defeat.
Spencer Dinwiddie spearheaded a comeback from a late eight-point deficit in regulation during a 37-point, 11-assist effort.
Joe Harris picked up a steal and hit a driving layup with 3.4 seconds remaining in the second extra session to give the Nets the lead for good as Brooklyn remained the league’s hottest team heading into Friday night’s rematch in Charlotte.
Harris finished with 27 points and rookie sensation Rodions Kurucs added 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Nets, who improved to 17-19 overall and 6-1 in their last seven at home after dropping eight in a row in Brooklyn.
“Just a total team win,” Atkinson gushed after the epic tilt.
“Sure, Spencer hit some amazing shots, but there were a lot of big plays from the whole group and that’s kind of how we’re built. That’s how we’re going to keep going forward.”
The contest could have easily ended in regulation after Carroll corralled a rebound off a missed free throw by Walker with just under two seconds remaining and the Nets down by a single point.
However, Walker inexplicably committed a reach-in foul on Carroll about 70 feet from the basket, giving the veteran power forward a chance to at least tie the game.
Carroll did that on his first attempt with 1.2 seconds left, then misfired on his second try, only to be bailed out by a Charlotte player in the lane too early.
Unfortunately for Nets fans, Carroll missed again, sending the game into overtime and forcing Brooklyn to bear down on Walker, a notorious Net killer who finished with 35 points.
“I don’t know of anyone else in this league that’s being guarded the way they guarded me,” Walker told the Associated Press.
“It was like a box-in-one. I haven’t seen that since I was in college,” he added. “It was pretty crazy, but I guess that’s what teams are going to do, so I’ve just got to keep trusting in my teammates to make plays.”
Charlotte appeared to have the last chance in the second OT with the score knotted at 132-132, but Walker was forced to give the ball to Malik Monk, who was unable to shake Kurucs at the top of the circle, resulting in a loose ball that Harris picked up for the scoop and score that gave Brooklyn the win.
“It’s something we didn’t really talk about, but [the defense we installed] was effective for us and froze them a little bit and allowed us to get just enough stops to be able to win,” noted Dinwiddie, who has emerged as a strong candidate for NBA Sixth Man of the Year honors.
The team that spent the better part of the past three years turning certain victory into defeat is now excelling at doing the exact opposite.
“We lost the game three or four times and we just kept coming back,” Atkinson said.
“It was just a fun game to be a part of.”
Nothing But Net: Allen Crabbe has been missing out on most of the fun the Nets have been having of late. The shooting guard sat out his seventh straight game Wednesday with knee soreness, but he is back on the practice court and hoping to contribute to this ongoing playoff push soon. “I expect after Christmas he should be ready,” Atkinson said of Crabbe, who has been supplanted in the lineup by Kurucs. … After visiting the Hornets on Friday, the Nets will travel to Milwaukee for the second half of a back-to-back Saturday evening. Brooklyn’s next game at Barclays will be next Wednesday vs. New Orleans.