Jarrett Allen Ups Assist Game for Brooklyn Nets

Center dishes career-high eight assists, with 17 points and 11 rebounds, against Sacramento

There aren’t going to be a lot of opportunities for Jarrett Allen to have a triple-double sitting right there within reach.

Allen has been a double-double machine — Friday night’s was his 28th of the season and he’s on the edge of averaging a double-double this season with 11.0 points and 9.5 rebounds per game — but a triple-double didn’t seem realistic for a player averaging 1.2 assists per game over his three seasons.

So sure, he wanted to go for it.

“I was trying to stay in, I was trying to get (Jacque Vaughn) to call a play where I handle the ball at the top and try to hit somebody backdoor,” said Allen. “So it was just working. Everybody was hitting shots. I was seeing the backdoor man. I think I hit Caris (LeVert) a couple times. Me and Joe (Harris) had a good connection. Really everything was just falling in my place. Triple-doubles? I never got one for assists. I think I got one for blocks in high school, but it’s kind of different in high school basketball.”

But with the Nets up 23 and three minutes left — and Allen up to 36 minutes for the second time in his last three games — Vaughn called it a night.

“He wanted me to leave him in,” said Vaughn, “but I let the universe and the game talk its own language. I’m not going to try to dictate that part of it.”

Allen finished with 17 points, 11 rebounds and those eight assists, and the Nets were plus-24 in his 36 minutes as they rolled over Sacramento for a playoff-clinching 119-106 win, their third in four games this week. It was still a somewhat unprecedented achievement, with Allen the first center in franchise history to put up those totals in a single game.

“JA was huge tonight,” said LeVert. “He's been huge all season especially since we've been out here in the bubble. I think we kind of challenged him in the practices early. We knew he had to be great for us to where we are right now. He's really stepped up to that challenge. I've said it a lot of times and I'll say it again. I think he's going to be one of the best bigs in this league for a really long time. We just gotta keep pushing him he's gotta keep pushing himself to get to that level. But he was huge tonight and he'll be huge for us going forward.”

Allen’s eight assists were both an outlier for his game historically, but also part of a trend since the Nets resumed play in Orlando. He had four assists against Boston, two against Washington, and three against Orlando, so he’s now averaging 4.3 assists per game in four games since the restart after averaging 1.3 in Brooklyn’s first 64 games.

“He did a great job of just moving the ball,” said LeVert. “We played through him at the top of the key and he's done a great job of making decisions and he's been great. I don't think he had a lot of turnovers either so that was huge for us.”

“(Jacque Vaughn) put me in the position to have the ball more at the elbow, top of the key area, and I’m able to see more of the things that are going on,” said Allen. “Also, if you look at me last year to this year, I’m starting to be able to face up more and see the floor. I used to have my back turned and be timid with the ball, but I’m starting to be more aggressive.”

From there, Allen’s first five assists of the night came off routine dribble-handoffs that he executed smoothly, but it spoke to the way the Nets wanted to utilize him as a fulcrum of the offense as they sent waves of wings curling around him into pull-up jumpers or momentum drives to the rim.

Assist No. 6 was an eye-opener, tying his career-high with a crisp give-and-go with Joe Harris as Allen anchored himself in position at the top of the key. After that, court vision, as Allen passed out of a triple-team on the block to Chris Chiozza for a 3-pointer and a new career high.

“You have multiple ball-handlers out there and guys that can get to space and shoot the basketball,” said Vaughn. “So Jarrett has really learned how to present himself not only in pick-and-roll and put pressure on the rim, but he’s also learned how to flash to the basketball and relieve some of our perimeter players when they’re getting pressured. So he’s definitely seeing how he can impact us on the offensive end. We know what he can do on the defensive end, I think his game is growing offensively.”

Allen arrived in Orlando ready for an amplified role. Yes, he’d been Brooklyn’s starting center for two years until DeAndre Jordan started the final two games before the season was suspended in March. But for the past two seasons he’d been paired with a veteran like Jordan or Ed Davis, and neither Jordan nor rookie Nic Claxton are in Orlando, leaving Allen as Brooklyn’s only true center, and only player taller than 6-foot-9.

Beyond that, the absence of others such as Spencer Dinwiddie and Taurean Prince left the trio of Allen, LeVert and Harris as Brooklyn’s foundational core for the restart. All three had huge performances in both the win over Washington that solidified Brooklyn’s playoff standing, and Friday’s win over Sacramento that sealed it.

In his four games in Orlando, Allen has elevated his game across the board, averaging 16.0 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 4.3 assists while shooting 65.7 percent in 32.4 minutes per game.

“There’s a competitive spirit, a joy about him that he’s playing with, but also an aggressiveness,” said Vaughn. “You see him battling for rebounds outside for his area. I think he’s enjoying that. He’s been impactful for our group, and on both ends of the floor. I think he sees the work that he put in and it’s starting to come to fruition.”

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