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Allen Crabbe may return for Nets and not a moment too soon

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Allen Crabbe looked good in a full five-on-five before Friday’s 100-87 loss to the Hornets, and coach Kenny Atkinson wouldn’t rule out the injured wing making his return Saturday in Milwaukee. With the Nets’ schedule — and minutes — piling up, they could use him.

“Still to be determined. He had a great workout, got a five-on-five in,” Atkinson said. “But we’ll evaluate him [Saturday] and see if he can go.”

Crabbe sat out Friday and has missed eight straight games with a sore right knee. He hasn’t played since a 20-point outing in the Dec. 12 victory in Philadelphia.

With the Nets playing three games in four days, including a double overtime contest Wednesday and a 5 p.m. tip-off Saturday, they will likely have to ardently manage their starters’ minutes and dig deeper into the bench against the Bucks.

“With this quick turnaround [Saturday], I’m going to have to think about using our bench, using more guys,” Atkinson said. “We’ve got some banged up guys in there. We’ve got to be ready for this early back-to-back and think about using more of our roster.

“We have to think about it. We definitely have some guys in the bullpen ready to go if we look a little fatigued. … But that’s definitely in the back of my mind and understanding we have Milwaukee on an early back-to-back. We have to keep aware of that.”

If Crabbe doesn’t play, two options are Shabazz Napier and Kenneth Faried. Napier had 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting in 11:27 minutes Friday, all in the second half to help lead a rally. Faried has only logged 50 minutes in nine cameos, but Atkinson said recently he has earned playing time and he’s going to look for opportunities to get the veteran power forward on the court. Saturday is a golden one.

“[Napier] brought us back in the game, made some really good plays, great drives, hit two three I think,” Atkinson said. “He was a real sparkplug.”

The Nets went zone for a second straight game in an effort to slow Kemba Walker. Could they continue to use it, for instance Saturday against Giannis Antetokounmpo?

“We had a bunch of breakdowns in our man-to-man defense and had to resort to zone again just because we couldn’t stop them,” Atkinson said.

“[We had to] keep playing, be aggressive,” Tony Parker said. “[When they] zone it’s to cut the rhythm, so you just have to keep pushing.”

D’Angelo Russell’s 33 points were the most he has scored in a road game in his career. But Spencer Dinwiddie had a season-low three, only his third single-digit outing.

Jarrett Allen and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson were a combined 2-for-15.

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