When the Nets last saw the Kings last spring in Sacramento, it was a night for the ages. They overcame a 28-point third-quarter deficit to win as D’Angelo Russell scored 27 of his 44 points in the fourth quarter.
But the rematch had no such wild swings, and that was fine with the Nets, who played their most complete game of the season on their way to a 116-97 victory that was their most lopsided win this season Friday night at Barclays Center.
The Nets have won three of four games without injured Kyrie Irving, who missed his fourth straight game with a right shoulder injury. Spencer Dinwiddie topped the Nets (7-8) with 23 points and seven assists, Joe Harris added 22 points, including 5-for-7 shooting from three-point range, Garrett Temple had 18 points, and the Nets dominated the boards, 48-33.
Harrison Barnes led the Kings (6-8) with 18 points, but they made only 4 of 26 three-point attempts and Buddy Hield was held to 16 points, including a 1-for-8 effort from three-point range.
“I think our defense was outstanding,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “I thought they were active, a lot of deflections, forcing turnovers. Obviously, Spencer is doing it at a high level since Kyrie has been out. I see chemistry between Garrett Temple and Spencer. I can see them connecting.
“Garrett was fantastic on both sides, limiting Buddy’s points and touches in general, which is always a huge task. Getting Joe going again is huge.”
Just as they did in a victory over the Hornets on Wednesday, the Nets struggled early with their shooting but relied on defense and rebounding to maintain an early cushion over the Kings. The slumping Harris, who led the NBA in three-point percentage last season, suddenly flashed to life in the second quarter. He hit a trio of threes to trigger a 15-6 Nets run that he capped with a fourth three-pointer for a 43-31 lead.
Atkinson credited centers Jarrett Allen and DeAndre Jordan with passing out of the pick-and-roll in the paint to create many open looks for Harris.
“DeAndre sprung him with great screens, and Jarrett found him with a couple of passes,” Atkinson said. “We have to keep getting him looks.”
Allen, who had 11 points and nine rebounds, agreed the Nets are a different team when Harris is on the mark.
“We’re hard to guard,” Allen said. “We’ve got two great rollers in me and DeAndre. When Joe is hot, we’re always searching for him.”
Harris appreciated the way all his teammates looked for him, and said he took advantage of the Kings’ guards often sinking back into the paint.
“DeAndre and Jay just did a good job all night making simple plays, making right decisions,” Harris said. “They took the lane when they had it and made kickouts when they were there as well.”
The Nets opened the third quarter with a 16-7 run that included five points each from Temple and Taurean Prince to push the lead to 72-56. The Kings never got closer than 10 points in the period, which ended with the Nets holding a 86-70 margin. In the fourth quarter, the Nets kept their foot on the gas pedal, opening with a 10-5 surge to push their lead to 21 points at 96-75, and they later led by as much as 22.
The third quarter is the place where many Nets leads have gone to die this season, but that’s where they took control against the Kings.
“Looking at all the other games before this, the third quarter was really our crutch,” Allen said. “Now, we’re getting rid of it, and we’re running at full speed.” With a smile, Allen added, “Good analogy.”