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Nets remain unbeaten under Vaughn

New head coach guides Brooklyn to second straight victory

March 11, 2020 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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A late-season coaching change, the ongoing battle to safeguard against the coronavirus and a showdown against one of the best teams in the NBA weren’t enough to stop the resurgent Brooklyn Nets in Los Angeles on Tuesday night.

Spencer Dinwiddie scored 23 points, including the go-ahead jumper with 28.3 seconds remaining, as Brooklyn improved to 2-0 under new Head Coach Jacque Vaughn by holding off LeBron James and the Lakers, 104-102, in front of 18,997 fans at the Staples Center.

Dinwiddie’s elbow jumper proved to be the final points of a game that saw the Nets (30-34) open a four-game West Coast swing with one of their most impressive wins of the year.

And it almost wasn’t.

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James fed Anthony Davis for a wide-open 3-pointer just before the buzzer sounded, but the ball bounded harmlessly off the rim, leaving Brooklyn unbeaten in two games since Vaughn stunningly replaced former Head Coach Kenny Atkinson on Saturday morning.

“It feels good because it’s a high quality opponent on the road for a team that is doing its best right now to continue to find itself,” said Dinwiddie, one of several Nets who blossomed into a legitimate NBA regular under Atkinson.

Though there continues to be speculation regarding both the timing and reasoning behind Atkinson’s dismissal, as well as ongoing restrictions and safeguards against the worldwide virus scare, the Nets have flourished over the past week, winning three in a row and four of their last five games.

Vaughn, who replaced the longest tenured coach of the Brooklyn era over the weekend, watched from the sideline as Davis launched what many thought would be the game-winning shot.

“It’s like the joy and pain of basketball,” Vaughn said. “I had the perfect sight line. I see it leave, just watching the flight of it. Looked to see if his feet were behind the line, so I said, This is a 3-ball. We’re either losing this thing, or we’re going to win this thing.”

Ultimately, they won, knocking off the team that had beaten 11 of its previous 12 opponents, including league-best Milwaukee last Friday night, and still owns the top record in the Western Conference.

The Nets’ bench watches in suspsense as Anthony Davis rises up for a potential game-winning shot Tuesday night. Fortunately for Brooklyn Davis missed, giving the Nets their third straight win. Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Though it is a small sample size, the Nets, along with their new coach, are eager to continue building momentum as they continue their trip Thursday night at Golden State.

“Obviously, we’ve gone through injuries and the coaching change as well. There’s been a ton of up and down,” noted Dinwiddie.

“And the (Lakers are) one of the top, what, three teams in the league, right? The championship contenders, Lakers, Clippers and Bucks. So it’s big for a team that’s learning and going to try to be a champion to add this win.”

Nothing But Net: Caris LeVert scored 22 points in Tuesday night’s dramatic win in L.A., helping Brooklyn improve to 12-20 on the road this year. The Nets retained their slim one-half game lead over Orlando for seventh place in the Eastern Conference playoff race and moved six full games ahead of ninth-place Washington, the first team on the outside looking in at the postseason picture. … Along with limiting media access to locker rooms, the NBA has also instructed players to avoid interacting with fans as the league continues to monitor the Coronavirus situation around the nation. … After visiting Golden State, the L.A. Clippers and Sacramento this week, the Nets will open a three-game homestand at Barclays Center next Wednesday against the Wizards.

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