The Nets still are in the embryonic stage of development under the regime of general manager Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson, but their growth in the early stages of Season Two is unmistakable. One night after blowing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead in Orlando and with point guard D’Angelo Russell sitting on the bench in a suit with a mildly sprained knee, they pulled off a shocking 112-107 upset of the defending Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers and LeBron James Wednesday night at Barclays Center.
Spencer Dinwiddie, who is their third starting point guard of the season after injuries to Russell and Jeremy Lin, blossomed with the game of his NBA life. Dinwiddie scored 10 of his team-high 22 points in a pulsating fourth quarter that saw the Nets (3-2) blow a 14-point lead but come back to pull it out with a 15-7 run at the end that included a deep three by Dinwiddie that gave them the lead for good. Dinwiddie also had five rebounds and six assists.
The Nets also got stellar performances from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (19), Allen Crabbe (19) and DeMarre Carroll (18). The Nets put up a franchise-record 46 three-point attempts and made a season-high 17. James had a triple-double for the Cavs with 29 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists, and they got 22 points from Kyle Korver, 18 from Jeff Green and 15 plus 12 rebounds from Kevin Love.
“Spencer organized us,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “We keep pushing him to be more aggressive, and tonight, he really stepped up, hit some big shots and played excellent defense. These types of wins, you feel really good about your program because it’s a group effort. These are the wins you really cherish.”
Down by 14 early in the fourth quarter, the Cavs got back-to-back threes by Calderon and Korver that triggered a 21-5 run that included six points from James as they finally regained the lead at 5:16 on a three by Love.
It was back-and-forth from there in lights-out fashion. A Dinwiddie three tied it at 100, but Korver responded with a three at the other end. Carroll then hit a corner three for the Nets to knot the game at 103 with 1:52 left. The Cavs were up by one when Dinwiddie buried a deep three from the top of the arc that put the Nets in front for good at 106-104.
“In the second half, we were contesting those threes, and they still were bombing them,” James said. “The one Allen Crabbe made on Kyle was a double-pump three, and he drained it. The last one (Dinwiddie) hit was pretty deep.”
Dinwiddie said he had to make something happen with the shot clock running out “It’s a shot I actually work on with Adam Harrington, my player development coach from the team. Instead of driving it, I had the confidence to walk into the three . . . I let it fly and was fortunate enough to make that one and we won the game.”
The Nets were protecting a 109-107 lead when James was fouled on his way to the basket with 7.6 seconds to go and missed the first, purposely missed the second and Carroll rebounded and was fouled. He only made one for a 110-107 lead. The Cavs inbounds pass went off James fingertips. Nets ball, and Dinwiddie wrapped it up with two foul shots. “I think it helps to galvanize the group,” Dinwiddie said. “Obviously, they’re Eastern Conference champions every year, and for us to pull out a win and close them out after they make their run, it kind of brings a young group a little bit closer together. ”