Spencer Dinwiddie did a rather good impression of his childhood idol. It was timely, too, because Kobe Bryant was right there watching the Nets guard Saturday night at Barclays Center. They even spoke before the game.
“He was nice,” Dinwiddie said. “He was like, ‘You’re playing like an All-Star.’ I’m like, ‘Man, I’m trying.’ I was like, ‘Thank you.’ Obviously, for me, that was big time. I don’t know him personally, but I guess kind of now I do.
“We’re best friends,” he added with a smile.
Dinwiddie indeed looked like an All-Star, following up his career-high 41-point game in Thursday’s loss in San Antonio with 39 points as the Nets staged their biggest comeback of the season. They came back from an 18-point third-quarter deficit to beat the free-falling Hawks, 122-112.
“I thought they quite honestly outplayed us,” Kenny Atkinson said. “I think that win was pure heart and hustle and grit and all of those intangibles.”
Atlanta came in with six straight losses and 23 defeats in its last 27 games, but the Hawks didn’t look the part of a doormat when they were up by 18 points in the third quarter. The Nets made a furious fourth-quarter charge and overcame 47 points by Trae Young.
“They went on a run and we couldn’t stop it,” Young said, “So yeah, we definitely felt like we let one get away.”
Dinwiddie personally outscored the Hawks 16-13 in the fourth quarter. The Nets (16-13) are 12-6 since he took over as the starting point guard for the injured Kyrie Irving, and this game was extra-special to him.
“Look, I’m a real mellow guy for the most part — not with Kobe,” Dinwiddie said. “Just by far my favorite player of all time. His career was basically my childhood. I was juiced. That’s probably why I missed the first three off the backboard.”
Dinwiddie had help, especially considering he picked up his fifth foul with 5:54 left in the third quarter and sat until 10:28 remained in the game. Garrett Temple scored 25 points, Joe Harris added 18 and DeAndre Jordan contributed 12 points and a season-high 20 rebounds off the bench.
Down by 13, the Nets scored the first 14 points of the final quarter. Dinwiddie scored the last two, driving the right side to give the Nets a 100-99 lead.
Taurean Prince hit a layup to make it 103-102 and give the Nets a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
It was 113-110 when Atlanta’s Kevin Huerter lost the ball to Harris, who turned it into a three-point play with 1:44 left. Dinwiddie then drove and scored to make it 118-110.
“We were determined not to lose,” Dinwiddie said.
Earlier, when Young drove and scored, Atlanta’s cushion swelled to 18 at 87-69. Then Temple scored nine in a 16-3 burst to get it down to five before the Hawks took off again and scored the last eight of the third quarter to go up 98-85.
Temple blamed the slow start on a subconscious carryover after what happened in the San Antonio game. David Nwaba became the latest Net to get hurt, suffering a season-ending Achilles tear. Then the Nets found themselves down 73-60 at the break against the Hawks.
“There wasn’t much said at halftime — we knew we weren’t playing with any energy in the first half,” Temple said. “They were outrebounding us, doing everything better than us. It’s tough to come back after one of your brothers goes down like Dave.”