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Nets' defense helps secure win over Nuggets as offense struggles from three-point range

Nets forward Taurean Prince pulls down a rebound

Nets forward Taurean Prince pulls down a rebound against the Nuggets during the second half at Barclays Center on Sunday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Nets' offense struggled Sunday against a potential playoff contender, but as has been the case of late, the defense picked up the slack and helped the team come away with yet another win.

Taurean Prince’s rebound with 10 seconds left sealed the deal in Sunday’s 105-102 victory over the Nuggets and solidified another impressive defensive performance from a Nets team missing several big-name stars on the offensive side.

The Nets (13-10) shot just 25 percent from beyond the arc and 46 percent from the field, but they outrebounded the Nuggets, 48-37, with a few clutch defensive boards near the end of the game that helped secure the win over the 14-7 Nuggets.

“Big stops at the end. Big stops,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said after the win. “Not only the stops, but getting those rebounds, especially at the end of the game. I thought [Prince] was a big part of that."

Prince finished with 11 rebounds — tied with Jarrett Allen for most on the team — and nine points in 32 minutes.

“We are improving defensively,” Atkinson added. “When you win a game where we make seven 3’s, that’s good news.”

“[The win] says the guys in this locker room not only believe, but know we can compete at a high level,” said Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who scored a team-high 24 points.

A team that has been relying on its defense now is 9-3 since losing Kyrie Irving to injury on Nov. 14.

“As long as we play defense, as long as we hold people to around 100 points, we feel like we can score enough to win,” Dinwiddie said. “That can be the hallmark of this group: defense and scrappiness.”

Along with Irving, the Nets also are without Caris LeVert (thumb) and Kevin Durant (Achilles). Durant isn't expected back until next year; Atkinson said LeVert is "progressing well" but didn't have a timetable for his return.

“Sometimes you find your identity when your back is against the wall,” Dinwiddie said. “We have what should be probably 70 percent of our scoring out. You have no other choice.”

Atkinson attributes the team's recent success to the defense’s consistency.

“I think the continuity is huge,” Atkinson said before the game. “Just having the group together for a long period of time. I think you’re seeing that a little bit with this group now. They’re starting to know their role, know when they’re coming in the game, know what their defensive responsibilities are, and that’s how a team grows.”

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