Jared Dudley and Brooklyn Nets Vets Stayed Ready and Came Through
Atkinson turned to bench to power fourth-quarter defensive stand
SACRAMENTO — Jared Dudley brings a professional's perspective to things. The Brooklyn Nets forward figures if he can't be sure of getting some run on a game night, he'll get it in the morning.
So Tuesday morning, Dudley led a contingent of Nets in scrimmage action. If they didn't get minutes in the evening, they'd have gotten their work in. If they did, they'd be sharp and ready to go.
It turned out to be the latter, as Dudley and scrimmage partners Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Treveon Graham were all over the comeback from 25 points down at the start of the fourth quarter as the Nets stunned the Sacramento Kings in rallying for a 123-121 win.
"I'll give Jared Dudley a ton of credit because he's kind of like the ringleader of that group," said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson. "They're going over early to the arena. They played 5-on-5 this morning for an hour. And I know that's their job, it's their spirit about it. They've accepted it, they've stayed ready and they've enjoyed the process of the little 3-on-3 games, the little extra work we do, the extra sessions. I've seen other teams where that group is kind of salty and they don't embrace the work and those guys have and I'm just so thrilled to see them rewarded."
"That's why you've got to have vets on your team, just for being professional," said Dudley. "I haven't played for a month consistently, so you could whine, but coming early, after games, getting cardio in, getting the right shots. Once you get your opportunity, what do you do with it? That's our job. Our job as vets and role players is when you get your opportunity, make the coach realize what he's missing out there.
The Nets rolled with the same five players for essentially the entire fourth quarter: Dudley, Hollis-Jefferson, Graham, D'Angelo Russell and Rodions Kurucs. It was an unorthodox lineup. The four players on the court with Russell have all had the same primary position this season — the power forward, or 4, spot. The only one who hasn't started at least 10 games at the position this season is the current starter, Kurucs, whose first stint in the starting lineup this season had him at a wing position.
While Russell and Hollis-Jefferson were the big fourth-quarter scorers, it was the group that shut down Sacramento as a unit, limiting the Kings to 22.7 percent shooting in the fourth quarter, including 0-for-8 from 3-point range.
"When we go small like that, teams got to score on us at the other end," said Russell. "When you've got a guy like Rondae at the 5, we can switch, he's active in the passing lanes, then you've got TG on the floor who can switch as well and he's physical, he plays bigger than he is, that was our advantage."
"With that group, everybody's going to talk about the offensive explosion, but I thought the defense was great," said Atkinson. "We started rebounding, we were hitting people, we were getting loose balls. Everything our first team wasn't doing, our first group, they were doing all the little things that our first group wasn't doing."
Dudley also connected for two huge 3-pointers, with the first coming late in the 26-6 run that brought the Nets within five points. Finally, after Russell had scored 16 straight for Brooklyn and brought the Nets within a point, he swung the ball to Dudley for a top-of-the-key three that gave the Nets a 121-119 lead with 1:11 remaining.
After the Kings tied the game on two free throws, Hollis-Jefferson delivered the game-winner for the Nets.
"No one in their right mind is thinking, 'Hey, we're gonna win this game.' So we just chipped," said Dudley. "And then they were giving us confidence, shooting bad shots. What can you say? This game kind of sums up our year. Rollercoaster up and down, finishing high. We need some wins to get into these playoffs, so this was a big win for us."
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