ATLANTA — It was far from a work of art, but even while Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert remain on the shelf nursing injuries, the Nets’ 130-118 victory over the Hawks Wednesday night at State Farm Arena is a sign things are starting to fall in place at the quarter pole of the season for a team that is incorporating several new veterans into its system.
Rebounding from a loss to Miami Sunday at Barclays Center, where they blew a seven-point lead in the final 1:45, the Nets made all the plays down the stretch after the Hawks cut a 15-point deficit to 100-92 at the 8:49 mark after rookie Cam Reddish scored seven straight points. That’s when Nets coach Kenny Atkinson inserted point guard Spencer Dinwiddie and all the starters in an effort to stop the bleeding.
They were successful, reeling off a 17-9 surge for their largest lead at 117-101 with 4:40 left to play. The Nets (11-10) climbed back over the .500 mark and improved to 7-3 without Irving. Atkinson credited improved rebounding by the Nets, who had a whopping 53-35 margin on the boards and tied a season-high with 18 offensive rebounds they turned into 28 points.
"We talked a lot about rebounding the past couple days, how much that has hurt us,” Atkinson said. “Collectively, I thought we got on the boards. Even in the first half, when we missed a lot of shots, I thought we cleaned up a lot of misses and that was the difference in the game.”
Four Nets scored at least 20 points topped by Garrett Temple with 27, including 6-for-9 shooting from three-point range. Dinwiddie scored 24, Taurean Prince had 23 points, and Jarrett Allen racked up 20 points with 13 rebounds. Trae Young had a great 39-point, 10-assist game for the Hawks (5-17), who also got 25 from Reddish and 20 points from Damian Jones, who was 8-for-8 from the field.
The Hawks made things hard on Dinwiddie and Joe Harris in the first half. They combined for just nine first-half points on combined 3-for-16 shooting. But Temple and Prince, who faced the Hawks for the first time since they traded him last June, filled the void.
“We have a lot of capable players in this locker room that are able to step up,” said Harris, who finished with 13 points. “We’re 21 games into the season, and you start to have that continuity, that chemistry. It’s unfortunate that Kyrie and Caris are not playing with us, but they would be jelling the same way. It’s just a matter of time of guys playing together and getting to understand each other, getting to understand Kenny and his philosophy.”
Temple noted that he said on media day in September that it would take time for a team with so many newcomers to mesh. “We have so many new guys and this team’s defensive principles are really different than around the NBA,” Temple said. “We have a very unique defensive gameplan a lot of times. So, it’s going to take us awhile to mesh on both ends of the court. Spencer is doing a great job of leading us out there, and guys are buying in.”
In the first half, Prince led the way, scoring 15 of his 23 points, and then Temple came on strong in the second half with 17 of his 27 points.
Atkinson was thrilled for both. Speaking of Prince’s homecoming against his former team, Atkinson said, “I felt like he wanted to have a good game being here, his family is here.”
As for Temple’s impact, Atkinson said, “It’s a real bonus when he is making shots. He hit some timely ones tonight when we were struggling. He is playing great basketball for us.”