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Nets vs. Suns: Brooklyn Hits the Road Riding High Off Big Defensive Effort

The Brooklyn Nets hit the road for a four-game, nine-day trip, departing Brooklyn on Monday to play the Suns in Phoenix on Tuesday night. They’ll be in Denver on Friday, at Golden State on Saturday, and wrap up the trip in Minnesota on Monday.

They took off coming off their biggest win of the season, a 25-point wipeout of the Philadelphia 76ers that improved their record to 4-6. It came 48 hours after a dispiriting loss to the Houston Rockets on Friday night. After a sloppy start by both teams on Sunday, it was the Nets that righted themselves in decisive fashion against a squad that won 52 games last season.

“I have tremendous respect for that team over there and the coach and how good they are, how talented they are,” said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson. “It’s a very big win for us. We could have hung our head after Houston. That was a tough loss for us. In the first half, I didn’t think we were tremendously sharp either. I was a little concerned, is this a little bit of a hangover from the Houston game. And then third quarter, we came out and really busted it. Very good win for us and now, this road trip’s important. We have some winnable games. Important for us to bond on the road and continue to progress.”

D’Angelo Russell matched Rondae Hollis-Jefferson for a team high 21 points, shooting 10-for-21 with six assists against just one turnover.

“Anytime you can hit the road with a win under your belt going into it, I think that’s a plus,” said Russell. “I think our mentality right now is one game at a time, showing up, competing for 48 minutes, one game at a time.”

TURNING OVER THE SIXERS

The Nets entered Sunday night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers ranked 29th in the NBA in turnovers forced, a category in which they were ranked last in the league last year. And then they went out and got 28 turnovers from the Sixers, the most in the league this season.

“It’s hard to judge whether that was on them or us,” said Atkinson. “It wasn’t any scheme change. It wasn’t anything we did differently. Yes, it’s something we talked about before the season. How can we be a little more active and cause a few more turnovers without extending our defense too much. It will be interesting to look on film to see how all those turnovers happened. But definitely we had a higher activity level.”

Atkinson cited Caris LeVert, who had four of Brooklyn’s season-high 11 steals.

“I thought he set the tone defensively with his activity,” said Atkinson. “I thought he was all over the place. I thought he was getting deflections. He had a great rebound in the second quarter where he came across the court and grabbed it. Talked to him before the game, the challenge for him is to be really good on both ends. We just don’t want him to be a one-way player. He’s got a lot of talent. There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with that. I was really pleased with his defensive effort.”

“I think we can control games by our defense even if our shots aren’t falling,” said LeVert. “I think that’s something last year we didn’t have. Last year, if we weren’t hitting shots we were in trouble. But I think this year we can really control a game on defense if we’re really locked in.”

CARROLL MAKING PROGRESS

Forward DeMarre Carroll is listed as doubtful for Tuesday’s game in Phoenix, the first time he hasn’t been listed as out since he underwent ankle surgery just prior to the season opener.

“He went pretty hard today,” said Atkinson. “I’m not going to give you what that means for the Phoenix game. But I think we were all pretty pleased with what he did today. It was another level of ramp-up, so he’s getting close, he’s getting real close.”

MUSA ON ASSIGNMENT TO LONG ISLAND

As the Nets embark on their first extended road trip of the season, rookie Dzanan Musa has been assigned to the Long Island Nets of the G League. Two-way players Theo Pinson and Alan Williams will also be sticking with Long Island. Rookie Rodions Kurucs will be in Phoenix with the Nets.

“Rodi, he’ll be with us traveling and Musa will stay with Long Island,” said Atkinson. “That’s the plan right now. That’s going to be a fluid situation all year. Just figuring out what our roster is, what we need, the Nets, and then what’s best for their development. Just kind of balancing. Then the two schedules, that matches up, the big discussion. But that’s the plan for this trip.”

ABOUT THE SUNS

The Phoenix Suns are 2-7 after snapping a seven-game losing streak with Sunday’s 102-100 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. Guard Devin Booker had 25 points and seven assists in the win and leads Phoenix in both categories with 25.7 points and 6.7 assists. The Suns feature 7-foot-1 Deandre Ayton, the No. 1 overall pick in last June’s draft. Ayton is averaging 16.0 points, a team-leading 10.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. Phoenix is ranked 29th in offensive rating (102.2), 28th in defensive rating (114.0) and 29th in net rating (11.8). One thing the Suns have done a solid job with so far is defending the 3-point line. They’re in the top 10 in the league in 3-point field goal attempts allowed and made by opponents and 3-point percentage allowed. The Nets are sixth in the NBA in both 3-point field goal attempts and percentage.

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