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Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s absence helped cause Nets’ spiral

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson of the Nets looks on from

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson of the Nets looks on from the bench against the Philadelphia 76ers at Barclays Center on Jan. 31, 2018 in Brooklyn, New York. Credit: Jim McIsaac

It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that the Nets’ season-worst tailspin basically has coincided with the loss of power forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to a strained groin. The Nets were-1-7 in games since Jefferson went down before facing the Clippers Monday night at Barclays Center, and coach Kenny Atkinson announced that Jefferson and Caris Levert (sprained knee) both would miss not only the Clippers but also a game against the Pacers on Wednesday before the All-Star break.

We miss his defense we miss his rebounding, there’s no doubt about it, miss his versatility, all those things,” Atkinson said of Hollis-Jefferson. “He won’t be back, he’ll miss these next two games. I’d throw Caris in there, too. He’ll miss these next two games, and we’ll see after the All-Star break what that looks like.”

Atkinson sees positive presence in Cunningham

In his first appearance with the Nets after no practice time with them, forward Dante Cunningham was plus-20 in 19 minutes in a double-overtime loss to the Pelicans. The next-best Net was Joe Harris at plus-four and everyone else was in minus territory. Cunningham was on the floor when Allen Crabbe hit four threes in a 24-8 run, but his plus-minus number wasn’t simply the product of good timing.

“Saw him do really good things,” Atkinson said. “I thought he had a real positive impact with his energy and his rebounding, his physicality. Obviously, he’s an NBA player with experience. That’s a big help for our group, just a guy that’s been around the league, that knows tendencies. Without knowing what we’re doing, his energy and his force and his intelligence really helped us out.

“We had some time to go over some things this morning. He’s still not completely up to speed, but we’ve got to throw him out there. We need his veteran experience.”

Okafor loses minutes

After getting double-digit minutes in six straight games and averaging 10.2 points in that span, Jahlil Okafor received single-digit minutes against Detroit and New Orleans and averaged 4.0 points. Asked about Okafor’s inconsistent minutes, Atkinson said, “It’s basically us getting down and having to go smaller to get more shooting on the floor. Hopefully, we’ll have some leads where we can keep our normal rotation.”

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