Written in capital letters across the top of Sean Kilpatrick’s Twitter feed is the word “UNDRAFTED.” It represents the chip on his shoulder, and since it also is the name of the clothing line he offers for sale online, it means he literally wears that chip on his shoulders.
On the court, the Nets guard will tell you he also wears “my heart on my sleeve.” That was abundantly clear Tuesday night at Barclays Center when Kilpatrick shrugged off his 3-for-14 shooting slump through three quarters against the powerful Clippers to go 11 for 20 the rest of the way and score 31 of his career-high 38 points. He led a comeback from 18 points down that gave the Nets a 127-122 double-overtime victory and snapped a seven-game losing streak.
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“He is an emotional competitor,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said of a player who has been pressed into starting because of injuries to Jeremy Lin and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. “Whatever we are doing in practice, whether it is a walk-through, he is just a competitive guy, and we are lucky to have him.”
Once Kilpatrick found his rhythm during a 29-10 fourth-quarter run in which he scored 20 points, the coach said he just ran pick-and-rolls for the hot hand. Kilpatrick appreciated the trust.
Recalling a point where he came to the bench and stood in front of Atkinson with head down and hands on knees, Kilpatrick said, “Coach looked at me and was like, ‘You’ve got a whole game left. Get up.’ That’s a huge confidence booster when you’re going through a slump and you have a coach sitting there having that type of faith in you.”
When the Clippers’ 18-point lead in the third quarter shrank to four with just over five minutes left in the fourth, Kilpatrick told himself, “It’s on now. It’s game-time.” He was in the middle of a stretch in which he scored 12 straight Nets points to tie the score at 99.
There was one point in the first overtime where Kilpatrick missed three straight three-pointers, but his teammates kept feeding him. He scored 11 of 20 Nets points in two overtimes.
“For me to have my teammates behind me on a night like tonight, knowing that whatever shot I took, they were like, ‘We’re riding with you,’ that’s something that’s really heartfelt for me,” Kilpatrick said. “This team is a group of guys that is high-character and we all care for each other. We’re riding with each other, and that’s big for us.”
Now that they’ve snapped their losing streak, the Nets (5-12) face the Bucks (8-8) in a home-and-home set that starts Thursday night at Barclays Center and continues Saturday in Milwaukee. There likely will be more losing streaks, but Kilpatrick and the Nets expect to define themselves by the heart they show to keep fighting through it.