Showing their trademark resiliency, the Nets bounced back from a 34-point loss to the Celtics to score a 119-106 victory over the Kings with the aid of a terrific performance by center Jarrett Allen, who missed a triple-double by just two assists Friday night at Disney World in Orlando. It was a huge win because it clinched their second straight playoff berth.
The determined Nets took an 11-point lead to the final period and pushed it to a game-high 23 points at 116-93 with 3:07 left to play. The Kings made just five of their first 16 shots in the fourth quarter as the Nets pulled away.
“Huge amount of grit and togetherness shown to respond from a disappointing outing last time and to answer the way we did from the beginning of the game,” said Jacque Vaughn, who is 5-2 since taking over for Kenny Atkinson as head coach two games before the NBA stoppage in March. “We were locked in, focused. It’s great to punch your own ticket into the playoffs. Nothing like doing your own laundry. We took care of business tonight.”
Asked about the significance of how the Nets bounced back from a tough loss to clinch, Caris LeVert said, “The coaching staff and our vets were kind of preaching that good teams don’t have two bad games in a row. So that’s the mentality we had coming into the game and we just wanted to push that full for 48 minutes.”
LeVert topped the Nets (33-36) with 22 points, Joe Harris added 21, shooting 8-for-11, and they also got strong bench play, including Chris Chiozza with 14 points, six rebounds and four assists and Tyler Johnson with 14 points. But the key to everything was the inspired play of Allen, who had 17 points, 11 rebounds, a career-high eight assists, one blocked shot and just one turnover.
“He was a force tonight and extremely unselfish,” Vaughn said of Allen. “He’s learning how to continue to play with his teammates, see what’s available and the instincts are sinking in and it’s good to see.”
Bogdan Bogdanovic led the Kings (29-40) with 27 points, DeAaron Fox added 21, and Harrison Barnes had 16. But the Kings, who were playing the second game of a back-to-back set after scoring 140 points in a win over the Pelicans on Thursday, shot only 30% from three-point range (12-of-40) while allowing the Nets to shoot 42.5% (17-of-40).
Allen had 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists in the first half, when the Nets led by 14 points on their way to a 63-53 halftime lead. Their lead reached 16 points in the third quarter, but a 12-0 Kings burst cut it to four. The Nets recovered with a 13-6 run to end the quarter and then put together a 17-7 run midway through the final period to push their lead to 23. Allen had five points and an assist in that span. He wanted to stay in to go for the triple-double, but Vaughn pulled him.
“Everybody was hitting shots,” said Allen, whose only triple-double came in high school and included blocked shots rather than assists. “I was seeing the backdoor man. I think I hit Caris a couple times. Everything was falling in my place.”
When Vaughn took over as coach, Allen was in a slump and lost his starting job to veteran DeAndre Jordan, who is not with the Nets in Orlando after testing positive for COVID-19. Allen said he is trying to seize the opportunity to regain his starting status.
“It is a little motivation,” Allen said. “I’m going to keep trying to play to show everybody in the NBA that I deserve to be a starter.”