Spencer Dinwiddie always says third-year center Jarrett Allen represents the Nets’ future, and he certainly looked the part in a 101-91 victory over the Hornets Wednesday night at Barclays Center. Allen totaled 22 points, 17 rebounds and two steals, and he made several key defensive stops down the stretch as the Nets pulled away.
Bench scoring late in games has been a problem for the Nets, and the trend continued against the Hornets. After taking an 11-point lead near the end of the third period, the Nets’ offense again fell into a deep funk as they missed nine straight shots and committed four turnovers, allowing the Hornets to fashion a 12-4 run to cut the lead to 86-83. The only Nets points in that span came at the foul line until Taurean Prince netted a three-pointer with 5:46 left that was their first field goal of the final period.
“That step-back three by Taurean was huge,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “We’re struggling to score. We have to find solutions. It’s tough to defend when it’s not going in the hole. We’re not getting to the free-throw line. We’re hanging our hat on defense right now.”
Prince's basket triggered an 14-5 burst by the Nets to push their lead back to a high of 100-88 following a three-pointer by Joe Harris with 1:33 to go. Allen had no blocks in that run, but his length forced two misses by Hornets guard Devonte' Graham when the Nets broke open the game, and he saved an offensive rebound that led to the Harris three.
Describing the play of Allen, Atkinson said, “I just thought he was huge. They went small; they put Marvin (Williams) at the five. We said, ‘You know what, we’ll stick with J.A., and I thought he did two things great. He guarded when we switched, he guarded their smalls, their quick guys. And then he punished them on the other end with his offensive rebounding. Eight offensive rebounds — that’s the answer when a team goes small. Stay big, punish them on the boards and have a big that’s fast enough to keep up with the guards.”
In addition to Allen's output, Prince provided 20 points and eight rebounds and, Dinwiddie added 20 points and eight assists for the Nets (6-8), who outrebounded the Hornets, 53-41. Terry Rozier topped five Hornets in double figures with 18 points and Graham had 17.
With Kyrie Irving sitting out his third straight game with a right shoulder impingement, Dinwiddie once again took control of the offense.
“I think Spencer’s done an admirable job since Kyrie’s been out,” Atkinson said before the game. “It’s hard to ask much more of him. And he’s doing it on the defensive end, so we need to support him in general. I think Taurean’s more than capable, Joe’s more than capable. He definitely needs some support now.”
Dinwiddie capped a 12-4 run in the second period with two assists and a three-point play that gave the Nets a 42-32 lead, but that margin shrank to 56-51 at halftime when the Hornets (6-9) hit a trio of three-pointers late in the period.
Early in the third period, Allen got it going with nine points in a 14-7 run that pushed the Nets’ lead to 70-60. But hot three-point shooting by the Hornets kept it close as they climbed back within three in the final period.
Despite scoring only 19 fourth-quarter points and shooting 26.3% (5 of 19), the Nets hung tough. “Just keep flying around, keep believing on that end,” Prince said. “I think our offense was sparked by the defense tonight. We kept the lead when we needed to and raised our level of intensity on the defensive end when we needed to as well.”