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Nets use big third quarter to avenge loss to Hawks

Nets forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson drives against Hawks forward

Nets forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson drives against Hawks forward Ersan Ilyasova in the first half on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, in Atlanta. Credit: AP / John Bazemore

ATLANTA — After failing to show their trademark grit two days earlier in Brooklyn, where they gave the Hawks a free pass to the rim in a disappointing loss, the Nets discovered their defensive backbone and regained their aggressiveness going to the basket to gain a measure of revenge in a 110-90 victory Monday night at Philips Arena.

The Hawks shot only 9-for-38 in the second half and the Nets held them scoreless for 5:43 at the start of the third quarter and for 2:18 at the start of the fourth. The Nets took control with a 17-0 run in that first scoreless span, including 10 points in the paint, and put together a 12-0 run from the end of the third period into the fourth quarter that featured four slam dunks by rookie center Jarrett Allen, the last three on feeds from Caris LeVert, for a 90-69 lead.

Nets coach Kenny Atkinson called it a “good bounce-back” win and praised his team for adjusting in the second half. “We showed three or four clips where we got beat one-on-one going to the rim and no one came over to help,” Atkinson said. “You’d like to think as a coach that those things help, but really, it was our energy in the second half. That’s where we got our separation.”

Backup point guard LeVert led the Nets (9-14) with 17 points and seven assists. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 16 points and 10 rebounds and Spencer Dinwiddie had 13 points and six assists. The Nets, who shot 41.7 percent from three-point range (15-for-36), also got 13 points from DeMarre Carroll and 11 each from Allen and Joe Harris.

Dennis Schroder topped the Hawks (5-18) with 19 points, but after making his first seven shots, he went 2-for-10 the rest of the way. Kent Bazemore and DeAndre Bembry each had 13 points.

In contrast with Saturday’s game, when the Hawks dominated the paint with a 54-28 advantage, the Nets took control of the paint, 40-30, including a whopping 28-6 difference in the second half.

Stopping Schroder, who scored 24 points in Saturday’s 114-102 Hawks win at Barclays Center, was critical. He scored only two second-half points.

“We just stuck with the game plan,” Atkinson said. “He was hitting mid-range shots. That’s the shots we prefer them to take. We kept trusting it. In the second half, it turned around and he started missing those shots.”

The 17-0 burst to start the third quarter quickly restored control to the Nets at 70-54. Their momentum slowed in the third when they committed six turnovers in 13 possessions, and an 8-0 burst by the Hawks cut their deficit to nine points. But that’s when LeVert and Allen started clicking as the rookie center scored eight points in a 12-0 run that pushed the Nets’ lead to 90-69. They led by as many as 29 points while gaining payback.

Asked about his chemistry with LeVert, Allen said: “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. We just kept running it and it kept happening. So we went to the same play over and over again.”

After the Nets lost Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell to injuries, LeVert moved from shooting guard to back up Dinwiddie at the point. This was his best outing yet in that role.

“I was just trying to be aggressive, just trying to make plays,” LeVert said. “Jarrett makes it easy. He’s a big target, so you just throw it anywhere near the rim and he can go get it.

“I’m learning every game, a lot of film. Obviously, Coach has confidence in me. He puts the ball in my hands a lot, so I’m just out there trying to make plays.”

New York Sports