The Nets are chasing the Hornets for a playoff spot, so the home-and-home that started Wednesday night was a golden opportunity. And the Nets cashed in on it, getting up off the mat to gut out a come-from-behind, 134-132, double-overtime win at Barclays Center.
Spencer Dinwiddie had 37 points and a season-high 11 assists, but Joe Harris (27 points) and Rodions Kurucs made the biggest plays of the night on defense. With the game tied and the Hornets holding for a last shot in the second OT, the Nets forced the ball out of Kemba Walker’s hands. Malik Monk, against the defense of Kurucs and Harris, turned the ball over off a dribble.
Harris got the loose ball and his breakaway layup with 3.4 seconds left gave the Nets the lead. Kurucs (13 points, 12 boards, three steals) then guarded Monk into a last-second miss that made it stand up.
“It’s a dogfight,” Dinwiddie said. “They’re a good ball club obviously. They’re [tied for seventh] in the East, they have a phenomenal player who’s probably going to be an All-Star in Kemba. We made just enough plays, just enough shots, just enough stops. So it’s a credit to our group in terms of maturing.”
The Nets (17-19) have matured enough to sit just a game behind Detroit for the sixth seed in the East, and one-half game behind the Hornets and Heat (both 16-17). They will head to Charlotte, N.C., for Friday’s completion of the back-to-back with a 9-1 record since the Dec. 6 players-only film session that turned their season around. It’s their best 10-game stretch since 2014.
“Great fight. We lost the game three or four times and we just kept coming back,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “They hit tough shots, we came back and hit tough shots. Just a great basketball game. It was just a fun game to be a part of.”
The Nets lost this game time and again before pulling it out. They trailed 101-94 with 3:44 left in regulation after Walker (35 points) hit a pull-up 3-pointer. They couldn’t guard him and eventually went to box-and-1 and 2-3 matchup zones. As crazy as it sounds, it worked.
The Nets then trailed 113-110 with 6.5 seconds remaining in regulation when Jeremy Lamb (31 points) committed a silly foul on Dinwiddie, handing him three free throws to knot the game. Walker untied it with a free throw, but missed the second.
DeMarre Carroll grabbed the rebound, and when Walker tried to pressure him, the Hornet was called for an egregious foul 70 feet from the basket with 1.2 seconds on the clock. Carroll tied it with a free throw, but missed the second. Even after a lane violation gave him another shot to win, he missed.
In the first OT, the Nets trailed 121-120 after a Lamb bucket, but Dinwiddie drew a foul with 22.7 seconds left. He missed the first free throw, but hit the second to send it into a second extra period.
That’s where the Nets took a 132-130 edge on a Dinwiddie fade. After Marvin Williams tied it with a dunk and Dinwiddie missed a layup and a pullup 3, the Hornets had what should have been the last shot. But Kurucs and Harris flipped that script.
“Box-and-1, 2-3 we didn’t even know what we were in sometimes in the timeouts. It morphed into different things as the game went on,” Atkinson said. “We just got creative. One thing we knew:We didn’t want Kemba to beat us.”
He didn’t. The Nets trapped the ball out of the Rice High product’s hands, and Kurucs used his 6-foot-9 frame to bother Monk, who lost his dribble and Harris went the other way for a layup.
“It was one-on-one with Monk and Rodi, and Rodi was in great position,” Harris said. “He fumbled it a little bit and I just happened to be right spot, right time.”
After Harris’ basket, the Hornets got two cracks to tie it — time was put back on the clock because of a clock malfunction — but Kurucs iced it by forcing Monk into a last-second 40-foot miss.
“Whoever was guarding Kemba, my face was contorted and I was afraid,” Atkinson said. “But I just feel real comfortable with his calm demeanor.”