PORTLAND, Ore. — It was Allen Crabbe’s homecoming celebration, as he returned to Portland for the first time since being traded to the Nets in July. But the Nets put together their best defensive effort of the season and D’Angelo Russell stole the show, scoring 11 fourth-quarter points on the way to a 101-97 victory over the Trail Blazers on Friday night at Moda Center.
The win gave the Nets a 2-2 record on a five-game road trip that ends Saturday night in Utah.
Trailing by 10 points in the third quarter, the Nets held the Blazers scoreless for 5:30 while fashioning a 17-0 run that was triggered by consecutive baskets from Crabbe to take a 72-65 lead. After Jusuf Nurkic’s layup got Portland off the schneid, Quincy Acy buried a three-pointer and Spencer Dinwiddie hit a layup for a 77-67 lead just before the end of the third period.
The Blazers responded with a 22-7 run to regain an 89-84 advantage with 5:40 to play. Once again, however, the Nets got the stops they needed to put together a 17-8 finishing kick that included all of Russell’s 11 fourth-quarter points.
Nurkic led the Blazers (6-6) with 21 points, but the Nets (5-7) did a good job containing the high-scoring guard tandem of Damian Lillard (19 points) and CJ McCollum (17 points), who shot a combined 13-for-32.
“We stayed with it and we kept defending,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “I thought it was our defense that really kept us in the game. [The Blazers] have two great players and they’re an excellent offensive team, so our guys did a good job locking in.”
Russell topped the Nets with 21 points and nine assists. DeMarre Carroll had 16 points and eight rebounds and Crabbe added 12 points. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson totaled 11 points and eight rebounds in 38:38, including 21:49 in the second half. He was on the floor the entire fourth quarter.
“When everybody is making shots and playing defense, knowing that when we come to Portland, we have two guys to really focus on, it makes my job easier once we try to contain those guys,” Russell said. “Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are a big-time duo. They’ve been killing in this league for a while. That was my main focus.”
The key play came with the Nets clinging to a 96-95 lead. When Lillard stumbled on a drive and lost control of the ball, Hollis-Jefferson grabbed it and called timeout with 41.1 seconds left. Coming out of the stoppage, Russell hit a jumper from the top of the key for a three-point lead with 36 seconds to go.
Hollis-Jefferson played with a painful right hip contusion, but Atkinson said he couldn’t afford to take him out. Describing his steal that preserved the win, Hollis-Jefferson said, “The play before, I missed a shot at the elbow at crunch time. I said, ‘Let me get it back,’ and it so happened that I switched on McCollum coming down the middle. I saw the ball, and I know with my hands being so quick that I could get it.”
No one enjoyed the Nets’ surprising victory more than Crabbe, who often was matched against McCollum, the player he backed up for four seasons. As expected, Crabbe received a warm ovation during introductions, but he might have appreciated the silence at the end even more.
“It feels good,” Crabbe said of the win. “I feel like it was a really great team effort. I feel like our defense was on point where it needed to be . . . They have two guards who score at a high rate, and we held them under their average. I’ve been playing CJ for years, and I was just trying to limit him.”