The Nets had one job Monday night at Barclays Center: Stop their eight-game skid and try to get back on a progressive track.
The stars appeared to be aligned over Brooklyn for the Atlantic Division’s basement tenant. The Nets finally had Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris Le Vert back from their injuries, and the Bulls, the Central Division’s struggling basement tenant, wore the visiting uniforms.
When the game was over, the Nets’ streak was over, too. They did their one job well, emerging with a 104-87 win behind 21 points from Allen Crabbe, 18 points, nine rebounds and three blocks from Jarrett Allen and 18 points, six rebounds and five assists from DeMarre Carroll.
“It felt good to come out with the ‘W,’ but I feel like we’ve had past problems where we would win and kind of just get overly excited,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “Even keel around here. Focus on the next game. We’ve got Cleveland [Tuesday night].”
It was the Nets’ first win of February, their last coming on Jan. 31. They had been waiting for this next one to match their victory total from all of last season and they finally got it, improving to 20-41.
“Quite honestly, we should’ve done it before the All-Star break,” Spencer Dinwiddie said. “There’s still a lot of improvement to make.”
The Nets had lost 12 of 13, including 10 of the 11 that Hollis-Jefferson missed with a strained right groin. LeVert missed five with a sprained right knee.
They returned to play limited minutes off the bench and brought their energy and defensive prowess. Hollis-Jefferson had seven points in 21:48 and LeVert had six points in 21:14.
“A little rusty, which is to be expected,” coach Kenny Atkinson said.
Allen asserted himself inside in the third quarter, scoring 10 points, including an electric power slam over Lauri Markkanen. “I get juice, everybody gets juice,” Allen said of those type of plays.
The Nets scored the first nine points after halftime to go up 58-51 and were ahead 64-58 after another Allen dunk. Then David Nwaba was called for a flagrant foul on Allen. The rookie center made both free throws and the Nets retained the ball. Carroll hit a three-pointer, was fouled and made it a four-point play, with the six-point sequence giving the Nets a 70-58 lead.
“They started making baskets,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said after his team dropped its fourth straight and 12th in 14 games to fall to 20-40. “We got deflated.”
After Kris Dunn (23 points) followed with a jumper, Crabbe knocked down a straightaway three-pointer to swell the margin to 13. The Nets brought a 14-point lead into the fourth quarter and led by as many as 22.
“The moral of the story is we just got stops,” Dinwiddie said. “Quite a bit of them.”
Nets honor Petrovic. The Nets had a remembrance for Hall of Famer Drazen Petrovic, who died in a vehicular accident 25 years ago at the age of 28 after two-plus seasons with the team. They gave out figurines of the shooting guard and had a video tribute and on-court ceremony with his mom, Biserka.