By Tom Dowd
The Brooklyn Nets outscored the Atlanta Hawks 17-3 to bust open a tie game over the final minutes and register a 116-104 win at Barclays Center to improve to 2-1.
The late Brooklyn surge came after the Hawks had erased a 16-point lead the Nets held in the final minute of the third quarter. But for the second game in a row, the Nets came up with big shots down the stretch.
“Thought we did a better job defensively,” said coach Kenny Atkinson. “We got a few stops. And obviously Allen Crabbe made some big threes that helped us get the margin there.”
It was a Crabbe 3-pointer that got the Nets going again. Brooklyn had shot 2-for-16 over the first seven minutes fo the fourth quarter. But with 4:35 to go, Crabbe knocked down a three, DeMarre Carroll made 1-of-2 from the line and Crabbe connected again from the right corner for a 107-99 lead.
“With DeMarre in there at the 4, we can really spread them out. You can’t really help. I think that was an important factor.”
“(D’Angelo Russell) kicked it up to me,” said Crabbe. “I saw the defense back a little bit. At first I was kind of hesitant. I didn’t think I was going to shoot it. But why not shoot it? It’s not like they’re going to get mad at me for shooting the ball. So I just shot it. Saw it go in, next possession got another one.”
After another Carroll free throw, Russell scored seven of Brooklyn’s next nine points, including a 3-pointer above the break on the left side, to put the Nets up 116-102 with 30 seconds to go.
“Teams make runs, teams come back,” said Russell. “Just have to handle adversity the right way.”
CRABBE BREAKS OUT
On Friday night in the home opener against Orlando, Allen Crabbe filled the starting lineup spot opened up by Jeremy Lin’s injury. On Sunday afternoon, he came off the bench with Caris LeVert getting the start.
With Crabbe working on a minutes limit after his preseason ankle injury, it was a mutual decision to condense his time on the court and limit breaks between action.
“He’s the ultimate team guy,” said Kenny Atkinson. “Ultimate professional. We talked before the game, he said, ‘I’ll come off the bench. That’s better for my rhythm.’ A lot of guys, everybody wants to start. Showed to me what kind of guy he is.”
The result was 20 points in 25 minutes on 4-of-7 shooting from 3-point range. Crabbe was central in getting the Brooklyn offense rolling after two dry spells.
The first came early, after the Nets scored five points in the game’s first six minutes. After two
DeMarre Carroll free throws, Crabbe banked in a runner, scored off a D’Angelo Russell steal and knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Nets their first lead. The second saved the game, with his two fourth-quarter 3-pointers.
Whether starting or coming off the bench, Atkinson expects Crabbe’s playing time to steadily increase.
“There’s definitely leeway. I’ve already crossed it,” said Atkinson. “It’s really just collaborative with the performance team, the coaches. Just being intelligent. We’re going to build him up. Obviously he had that injury in the preseason and it took him out a while. They’ll keep going up.”
CARROLL FILLS THE BOX SCORE
DeMarre Carroll gave the Nets a little bit of everything in putting up a team-best plus-19 in plus/minus for time on the floor. Carroll finished with 17 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals — and some clutch plays.
With the Nets having surrendered a 24-8 run to allow Atlanta to tie the game in the fourth quarter, Carroll came up with a block on an Atlanta possession coming out of a timeout. With a little over a minute to go, he stripped a defensive rebound away after a Brooklyn miss, saved the ball from going out of bounds and gave it to Trevor Booker for a layup and a 114-102 lead.
Coach Kenny Atkinson moved Carroll down to the 4 spot in the second half of the fourth quarter to open up some spacing after the Nets struggled to score early in the quarter.
“We felt like we needed more shooting like that,” said Atkinson. “I think right after that DeMarre made that block. Someone came down the lane and he got a block, so I thought that was important. That was a big change. We got a few stops and then Allen obviously made some big threes and then D’Angelo in the pick and roll. With DeMarre in there at the 4, we can really spread them out. You can’t really help. I think that was an important factor.”
THIRD QUARTER SURGE
The Nets appeared to have taken control of the game late in the third quarter.
Leading 56-52 at halftime, they shot 11-for-20 in the quarter, including 3-for-5 from 3-point range. Leading 74-67, they put together a 9-0 run kicked off by a DeMarre Carroll 3-pointer and capped by two Allen Crabbe free throws for an 83-67 lead. Trevor Booker’s three-point play with 25 seconds remaining in the quarter made it 91-75, matching the biggest lead of the game at 16 points.
D’Angelo Russell notched 10 assists, the high so far for his just-beginning Nets tenure. He added 16 points and is averaging 21.0 points while shooting 52 percent from the field in three games.
“He’s got some great vision,” said Caris LeVert. “I don’t even know how he sees half the stuff he does. He’s just blessed with that.”
In his first start of the season, LeVert had 16 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals. Trevor Booker’s double-double streak ended, but he still finished 14 points and six rebounds.