Allen Crabbe was filling the net for the Nets with three-pointers from left, right and center.
Those shots descended perfectly during the first half at Charlotte Thursday, and he was on the way to the second-best output of his career, a 29-point night. Crabbe nailed his first six tries from beyond the arc in the victory — six more toward a record.
He’s closing in on the franchise’s all-time mark for threes made in a season. The 6-6 shooting guard/small forward owns 159 heading into Sunday night’s game against Philadelphia at Barclays Center, third behind Deron Williams’ 169 and Joe Johnson’s 162.
“My teammates tease me out about it,” Crabbe said after practice Saturday at the HSS Training Center. “They talk about that I’m not that far away. But it’s not my focus. I just want to win basketball games.”
The Nets have only won 21 of them in another rebuilding season. They have won one more than last season with 16 remaining. Crabbe has been a work in progress with the consistency of his shot and production as a first-time regular starter after four seasons with Portland. But there are games when this 25-year-old Cal alum looks like a shooting star and an integral piece moving forward.
“I think he’s really become much more aggressive as the season has gone on and had really good stretches,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “But that separates the good from the great in this league: Can you do it more consistently?
“So that’s a growth area for him. I think it’s mental with all the games coming and different coverages, different guys covering you . . . In Portland, I think you’re playing against backups and now you’re playing against starters all the time and elite defenders. And then physically he’s going to make strides there, too, to be more consistent, just get stronger.
“He’s making strides. He’s just got a ways to go.”
The Nets traded for Crabbe last summer after signing him to a four-year, $75-million offer sheet that Portland matched the year before. He has set the franchise record with five games making at least six threes. His average is 12.9 points but 19.1 over the last 11 games. The run began with a career-high 34 at Detroit. It also includes six-and nine-point nights before his 29-point eruption.
The message to Crabbe from Atkinson and teammates has basically been that he needs to shoot more.
“He’s a really good shooter, a really efficient shooter,” Caris LeVert said. “He can get hot quick. We need him. We need him to be aggressive on the court because he’s so talented.”
Last season, Crabbe finished second in the NBA in three-point percentage at .444 and shot .468 overall. His overall percentage has dipped to .395. But it’s .438 over the last 11. His percentage from distance has dipped to .362 with an average of 3.3 more attempts per game than 2016-17. But it’s .389 over the last 11.
“I can say [there’s] more defensive attention, but at the same time, I can do better,” Crabbe said. “I know in the beginning of the season, I didn’t shoot that well. But I feel like I’ve been shooting the three pretty well lately.
“I get it. Every game is not going to be six-plus threes for me. I understand that. There are going to be nights where I’m off. But that just allows me to affect the game in ways other than just shooting. It could be defensively, or it could be making a good pass within the offense.”
Atkinson had wanted him to improve on defense from the start. Crabbe got that message.
“I definitely feel my defense compared to last year is not even a comparison,” Crabbe said. “ . . . I’m just taking more pride [in] it this year and just not wanting to be that guy getting scored on.”
Crabbe is shooting for success here and taking nothing for granted.
“I’m just coming in each and every day trying to prove my worth and prove what they invested into me,” Crabbe said. “So I feel like that’s what I owe them back. This opportunity that I have now, it’s once in a lifetime.”