The Brooklyn Nets get to go into Saturday night's game against the New York Knicks without the baggage of a losing slide or late-game disappointments. Against the Toronto Raptors, the team with the best record in the NBA, they matched the Raptors basket-for-basket through the fourth quarter, came through with stops at the end of regulation and overtime, and got the winning shot they need.
"I feel like at the end of the day it's about high character guys," said Rondae Hollis-Jefferson of the way the Nets grabbed a clutch win and stuck together through a tough stretch. "The people you have in your locker room are really solid dudes, really great guys. You can talk to them about anything. That's what it comes down to at the end of the day. You've got a brotherhood here that means a lot to people. You really care about them. We know about people's family, we know about people's lives. We're open to talk about it with one another. It's pretty big. It's bigger than basketball for us. It means the world to us. When you have guys like that, you can go on the court and go to war with these guys."
RUSSELL AND DINWIDDIE PUNISH RAPTORS
D'Angelo Russell had a big night for the second time in three games with 29 points against the Raptors on Friday night. Russell shot 13-for-22 overall and also had five assists and four rebounds. On Monday, he went for 30 points with eight rebounds and six assists against Cleveland.
Against Toronto, he carried the Nets in the third quarter, then scored Brooklyn's first six points of overtime.
"Huge," said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson. "What can I say. We needed his offense. He kind of carried us. Without him I'm not sure how you score against that team tonight. They're so athletic and every shot is contested. They're a heck of a defensive team. That's one of D'Angelo's talents. He's a high-level scorer and we needed it tonight."
With the Raptors pressuring the 3-point line, it opened up some lanes inside the arc for the Nets' guards. Russell punished the Raptors with mid-range pull-ups, while Spencer Dinwiddie attacked the rim for 17 points and led the team with eight assists.
"You take what they give you," said Russell. "They gave us the mid-range. They gave us deep penetrations and late dish-offs. They gave us the scramble plays on offense. Just have to take advantage of it."
Dinwiddie had eight of Brooklyn's 18 points in the fourth quarter. When Jarrett Allen gave the Nets a 98-96 lead late in regulation, it came off an offensive rebound after Dinwiddie again got to the rim.
In overtime, Allen's game-winner came off a Dinwiddie assist on a drive.
"They switched everything," said Atkinson. "Teams are going to that now and if you don't have a guy that can get downhill it makes it really difficult. So he can get the switch, he can drive it. I wish he would move it a little more sometimes, but you need that guy who can get downhill."
RONDAE GETS HIS STOP
Kawhi Leonard did not missed Toronto's last shot in regulation. He didn't get the last shot in overtime, giving up the basketball. Count that as a win for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
"If I had a game ball, I'd give it to him," said Atkinson. "He embraced his role. That was the Rondae that we've seen. We saw last year. I still don't think he's in peak form. I think he's still coming back from his injury in the summer. He was out a long time. But he was fantastic; 103-102, there's a loose ball and he jumps on in, we get the jump ball, and then we win the jump ball. Those are the plays, and I think the players talked about that in the film session, quote unquote winning plays we weren't making. Whether it was a box out, whether it was a 50/50 ball. He led it, he was great tonight."
ABOUT THE KNICKS
The Knicks are 8-18 after Thursday's 128-100 loss to the Boston Celtics. They've split their two regular season meetings with the Nets so far. Tim Hardaway Jr. is leading the Knicks with 22.1 points per game, while Enes Kanter is averaging 14.9 points and 11.7 rebounds.