It took three minutes to change the narrative of a night for the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday evening.
It was a tough assignment, hosting the defending champion Golden State Warriors two nights after a gut-punch giveaway loss in New Orleans. And for most of the night, the Warriors did Warriors things, the kind of things they do to every team, the kind of things that have won them three titles in the last four seasons.
What it added up to, with under nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter at Barclays Center, was a 16-point hole for the home team.
It hadn’t been a bad second half to that point. The Nets were down 14 at the half, so they had essentially played the Warriors even for the last 15 minutes. Spencer Dinwiddie knocked down three 3-pointers in the third quarter, then opened the fourth quarter with another. Then Allen Crabbe took his turn with three in under four minutes.
But they were still down 15 before D’Angelo Russell hit from deep twice in less than 30 seconds. And when the Nets followed a Kevin Durant turnaround jumper with nine straight points, they were within 110-108 before Curry and Durant responded to seal Golden State’s 120-114 win.
“We’ve had this before last season,” said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson. “Big deficit and then make a big push, which our group always seems to do that. But we talked before the game about us bouncing back from a tough loss in New Orleans. The way the first half went, we easily could have folded, and that’s not the type of guys we have in that locker room. They’re a resilient bunch. They competed their tails off. Good for the fans to see we didn’t just succumb to their talent or their aura so to speak.”
Three of the Nets’ four losses this season have been single-possession games in the final two minutes against teams with a combined record of 14-3, with two of them literally coming down to Brooklyn’s final possession.
“We try not to have a lot of moral victories,” said LeVert. “Obviously it was a tough one in New Orleans. We feel like we should have won that one. But I think that it’s very encouraging to see that we can compete with this teams, but the next step is winning these games.”
It was LeVert’s fourth game in six with at least 20 points, following the 27- and 28-point outings he opened the season with, and the third-year guard is averaging 21.3 points per game. If there was one soft spot in his start, it was a 3-point shooting percentage under 30, but he connected for 4-of-7 against the Warriors as part of a 50-percent, 9-for-18 night.
As the Nets made 20-of-42 3-pointers to shoot over 40 percent from deep for the fifth straight game, they also got a welcome performance from Allen Crabbe. Crabbe also came in shooting under 30 percent after missing some preseason time and season opener with an ankle sprain. But his three triples in the fourth were part of a 4-for-7 performance that keyed a 14-point night.
“That’s the Allen Crabbe we need,” said Atkinson. “I felt like he has not been in rhythm. In his defense, slowed by that injury. We need him back. He’s a big part of what we do, his ability to stretch the floor. I thought we got layups at the rim and Jarrett Allen got some dunks because they have to stay out, they have to stay connected to him. Even when he’s not making shots he’s an important part of what we do.”
Russell also had his second straight big 3-point shooting night. After connecting on 6-of-9 in New Orleans, he hit 5-of-8 against the Warriors with a team-high 25 points to go with six assists and six rebounds.
LeVert was next with 23 points and seven assists, giving he and Russell 48 points and 13 assists between them. It’s the kind of multi-dimensional pairing the Nets are looking for their young backcourt to grow into.
“They’re finding a nice chemistry depending on the matchup, who’s guarding them,” said Atkinson. “They’re kind of figuring out how they can share the ball. It’s not just one guy. And that’s the way this league is now. So that’s just the chemistry you get, and I thought they both made plays today, especially toward the end.”