Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Drives Brooklyn Nets to Big Win Over Philadelphia 76ers
Season highs of 29 minutes and 21 points for forward coming back from injury
The open court was where the Brooklyn Nets wanted to be on Sunday night, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was a big part of getting there -- and making the most of it.
Coach Kenny Atkinson has been pointing to a steady build-up of playing time for Hollis-Jefferson, who missed all four preseason games and the first three regular season games as he first worked his way back from an adductor strain and then welcomed the birth of his son.
Sunday night against the Philadelphia 76ers, in his seventh game of the season, Hollis-Jefferson had his busiest and biggest night of the year, leading the Nets with 21 points in a season-high 29-plus minutes.
With the Philadelphia defense ranked in the top 10 in the NBA in defensive rating and anchored by 7-foot center Joel Embiid -- fifth in the league with 2.3 blocks per game -- plan A for Nets coach Kenny Atkinson was to get the Sixers moving as they played the back end of a back-to-back.
"Having Rondae back in the lineup, that helps a little bit," said Atkinson. "You have your more active players. I thought generally we went from a low activity game against the Rockets (on Friday) to much more active."
That meant stretches where the Nets went small with the 6-foot-7 Hollis-Jefferson the tallest player on the court for Brooklyn while the Sixers rolled out three players 6-9 or taller, including Embiid.
"It was on both ends," said Atkinson. "I thought defensively he was good. And then again, he got out in transition and took it to the rim. That's his elite skill. His elite skill is driving it and getting to the free throw line and being a defender/rebounder. I thought he stayed in his role and really helped us a lot tonight."
Hollis-Jefferson had 14 of his 21 points after halftime as the Nets broke the game open in the third quarter. Attacking the rim in transition, he capped a 26-8 run late in the third quarter, and two minutes later drove the rim again for a 19-point Brooklyn lead.
"He's a defensive specialist, individually," said D'Angelo Russell. "So whatever he adds on the offensive end or wherever else, I think that's just the cherry on top. But he's always going to be that work hard, scrappy guy, 50/50, make the play, but he has offensive skills as well. I think he's falling into his rhythm. He needed that game just to get that confidence right. I think he's going to need these games that we scrape up as well, because we're going to need him."
Hollis-Jefferson shot 9-for-14 from the field and had five rebounds and three assists. His plus/minus positive rating of 27 was the highest on the roster in the 25-point win.
"I know first and foremost how tough it is to come back from an injury," said Caris LeVert. "He's been gone for a while. I think people try to look past that. Basketball's a rhythm game, and when you're out for that long, you kind of loose rhythm. But it's huge for him to see the ball go through the basket a couple times today because we're definitely going to need him this season."