Nets vs. Hawks: Close Games, Big Swings for Brooklyn

Big leads aren't safe for either team when Nets play lately

ATLANTA — The road out of the All-Star break has been filled with twists and turns for the Brooklyn Nets, and they haven’t always liked their final destination.

Last Saturday’s win in Charlotte was a wire-to-wire rout, but their other three games have been losses marked by big swings on the scoreboard, right up through Wednesday night’s 110-106 loss in Washington.

Close finishes for this team are nothing new. The Nets are fifth in the NBA with 33 clutch games out of their 57 played this season — defined as a game with a margin of five points or less in the final five minutes. Their last four losses have all been single-possession games in the final 30 seconds, with three losses by a total of seven points and the other coming in overtime.

Against Washington on Wednesday night, the Nets fell behind by 18 points in the first half before coming back to take an 84-81 lead into the fourth quarter after outscoring the Wizards 37-21 in the third. The fourth quarter featured nine lead changes and 10 ties before Washington sealed the four-point win with a defensive stop and two free throws with 1.6 seconds to go.

“We always talk about fourth quarter,” said Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson. “What about the first two quarters? Again, it’s that focus I was talking about. I don’t think it was physical. I don’t think it was game plan. I think it was pure focus. We can all go into our dictionary and ask a sports psychologist what focus means, what mentally locked in means, but we weren’t. It was evident that first half.”

This followed Monday’s 115-113 loss to Orlando in which the Nets held a 19-point lead. The first game out of the All-Star break was the wildest. Down by 16 in the opening minutes, the Nets stormed to a 20-point lead before halftime. Back down by five early in the fourth quarter, they went back up by six before Philadelphia forced overtime and sealed the game there.

“I think it’s a little bit of everything. We’ve had leads in all of the games, I feel like,” said DeAndre Jordan. “They’ve come down to the wire and we have not executed. We’ve turned the ball over on some of them. Feel like we’ve taken our foot off the gas sometimes, but that is us. I feel like we’ve got to give other teams credit because they keep fighting and we’ve got to be more mature in situations where we’re up and we can’t play the score.”

“Honestly, if we knew the answer, it probably would never happen,” said Garrett Temple. “That’s the age-old question to any sport, any team, from Little League to now, how to get locked in for 48 minutes. We’ve got to figure it out. We’ve got three more games on this road trip, all winnable. We’ve got to get them. Obviously it’s the push for the playoffs. Maybe for two minutes you lose focus, but as vets and everybody, you’ve got to pick everybody back up. Talk. Communicate. I think communication solves a lot of problems in the focus department.”

LEVERT FOR 34

Three weeks ago, Caris LeVert’s career high was 27 points. He’s topped that three times since, the latest a 34-point night against the Wizards in Washington. LeVert carried the Brooklyn offense early with 19 first-half points, keeping the Nets within 13 at halftime. In the third quarter, LeVert tacked on another 13 to power Brooklyn’s 37-point quarter. He also finished with seven assists, six rebounds and four steals.

In nine games since returning to the starting lineup on Feb. 3, LeVert is averaging 23.9 points, 5.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game while shooting 46.4 percent from 3-point range.

MORE JORDAN

DeAndre Jordan had 16 points and 16 rebounds against Washington on Wednesday night, his ninth double-double off the bench this season, tied for the league lead.

Jordan also leads the NBA in rebounds off the bench (9.6), 10-rebound games off the bench (23) and 15-rebound games off the bench (5). Over his last eight games, Jordan is averaging 11.4 points and 11.5 rebounds.

KURUCS FOR CHANDLER

With forward Wilson Chandler missing Wednesday’s game for personal reasons, Rodions Kurucs, who had played in just one of Brooklyn’s last six games, grabbed six rebounds in 17 minutes. Kenny Atkinson said before the game he did not expect Chandler to be absent for an extended time.

ABOUT THE HAWKS

The Nets have won all three games against the Hawks this season, averaging 120.0 points per game in the matchup. Atlanta his 17-43 and in last place in the Eastern Conference, dropping its last two games after beating Miami and Dallas immediately after the All-Star break.

Trae Young is third in the NBA in scoring with 30.1 points per game and second with 9.2 assists per game. John Collins averages 20.8 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.

The Hawks are 25th in the NBA in offensive rating (106.2), 23rd in field goal percentage (44.7) and 30th in 3-point percentage (32.7).

Brooklyn Nets Stat Leaders

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