Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Delivers Game-Winner to Lift Brooklyn Nets
Forward sparks fourth-quarter rally and completes the comeback
SACRAMENTO — The final play wasn't drawn up for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, but the Brooklyn Nets forward had the faith he could make the most of the opportunity if it came his way.
"To be honest, before they drew the play up I told a couple guys on the bench, I was like, 'Yo, just draw it up for me to go left and I'm gonna score,' " said Hollis-Jefferson. "In a way I felt like everything happens full circle and good comes to good."
It was Hollis-Jefferson's layup, flipped over his shoulder as he crashed to the floor, that sealed the comeback from 28 points down and gave the Nets a 123-121 win over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.
The initial plan for the side inbounds with 5.9 seconds remaining was to get the ball to D'Angelo Russell, and why not? Russell had already scored 27 points with four assists in the fourth quarter alone. But Russell was covered and when the inbounds pass went to Hollis-Jefferson, option No. 2 — a dribble hand-off with Russell — was denied as well.
"He couldn't get open," said Hollis-Jefferson, "so I saw him looking at me, like throw it over the top, then he looked at the clock, he was like, 'Go, go, go.' I just put my fifth gear, sixth gear, locked in, looked at the rim and went to the basket."
Hollis-Jefferson had a huge impact on the Brooklyn comeback well before he contributed the finishing touch. He scored nine of Brooklyn's first 11 points in the quarter, slowly and subtly changing the game's momentum.
"Honestly, going into it, I was like, the only thing we need to do is change our energy," said Hollis-Jefferson. "We're going to make mistakes, we're going to turn the ball over, but the energy was a little low. So I just knew when I came in there I had to impact the game with my energy."
Once Hollis-Jefferson got the Nets going, they sped up. They had a small lineup on the floor, with Hollis-Jefferson at the center spot. On the defensive end, they pestered the Kings into 22.7 percent shooting in the fourth quarter. Offensively, they spread the floor, keeping the lane open for Hollis-Jefferson and Russell to attack the rim and outscored Sacramento by 27 points int he fourth quarter.
"We were small and fast and Rondae at the five kind of changed our dynamic," said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson. "His speed and his ability to drive the ball, we were five-out the whole time, really changed the course of the game."
In scoring 12 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, shooting 6-for-7 overall, Hollis-Jefferson turned a game that looked like a lost cause at the opening of the fourth quarter into one he'll always remember.
"Man, it was amazing," said Hollis-Jefferson. "My first game-winner. So it was definitely an unbelievable feeling, I kind of got a little teary eyed over there. But this is the moments that you live for, you want to play the game for. It's humbling, it's awesome. I couldn't ask for a better group of guys to enjoy this with."
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