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Late surge gives Brooklyn its first road victory in Phoenix: 122-104

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

We aren’t even 10 games into the season and the Nets have seemingly exceeded early expectations. Despite playing without a natural point guard, they’ve found ways to stay afloat and compete night in and night out.

Brooklyn’s latest victim was the Phoenix Suns (3-7). Behind a balanced attack, they got their first road victory of the season, 122-104, Saturday night in Phoenix to improve their record to 4-5. They’ll try to reach .500 against the Los Angeles Clippers this Monday.

The Nets played a solid first half, one that saw their lead climb to 16 behind a 14-point half from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. The Nets also held Phoenix to 31 percent shooting and everyone’s boy wonder, Devin Booker, to just 2-of-11 shooting.

After outscoring Phoenix 35-24 in the 2nd quarter, the Nets needed to do something they’ve failed to do in the young season: play well in 3rd quarter.

They didn’t.

Brook Lopez was quiet and other guys were forced to step up. However, it wasn’t the offense that struggled so much, but rather the defense. They let up 38 points in the 3rd and Phoenix crept their way back into the game.

Less than four minutes left in the game, Brooklyn’s lead was down to two points. Still, they never let their foot off the pedal.

They answered Phoenix’s surge with an 11-0 run of their own, bringing a 102-100 lead up to 113-100 with less than two minutes remaining. They closed the game out on a 20-4 run.

Lopez – who was relatively quiet (11 points) – nailed the dagger 3-pointer to increase Brooklyn’s lead to 13.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson set a career-high for points (20) and matched a career-high for rebounds (13). By far the best game of his career, the former Arizona Wildcat carried the Nets to victory. He’s scored in double figures in three of the last four games, attributing it to his new headband swag.

Trevor Booker finished with 19 points and eight rebounds, while Sean Kilpatrick stepped up at the point and scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Joe Harris hit five 3-pointers and led the bench with 19 points as well. Both were career highs.

All played a role in Brooklyn’s 32-point fourth quarter.

”Defense, it gives you that energy, that joy that you want. When you stop someone and you go down and score, it’s like `Woo! That was fun!”’ Hollis-Jefferson said. ”We enjoy that whole process, the stop and the score.”

”We just locked down defensively,” Booker said. ”We shut down their transition and made them play half court.”

Offensively, Nets hit 26 free throws along with 16 3-pointers. On the other side of the ball, Brooklyn held Phoenix to just 37 percent shooting. It started with stopping the elite. For the game, DevinBooker finished 5-for-18 from the field; Eric Bledsoe 1-for-8; and Brandon Knight 2-for-13.

Last but not least...

Time to give credit where credit is definitely due. The Nets don’t have a true point guard playing. Jeremy Lin is hurt. Greivis Vasquez was hurt and then waived. Isaiah Whitehead suffered a concussion, didn’t even travel. Yogi Ferrell was playing his second game. All point guards, all fair reasons why the Nets should be struggling.

That being said, Kenny Atkinson has had all his guys ready to step up, night in and night out. This goes for all guys 1-15. The primary example is Kilpatrick having to come in and run the point. They stick with the system and still score 122 points.

Another? Lopez scored 11 points on 3-of-11 shooting, along with Bojan Bogdanovic who had seven points on 2-of-7 shooting. So, other guys step up (i.e. RHJ, Harris) in place of Brooklyn’s primary offensive weapons.

If you want culture, Brooklyn’s got a new culture: teamwork. It’s not about one player. They win and lose as a team. Kenny Atkinson would be the first to admit that.

As Lopez told beat writers, “"Definitely, there's something special for this team. We're more than sum of parts. This is just beginning."

Meanwhile, Brian Lewis had some good news about the point guard situation.

Greg Logan also tweeted out news about both Jeremy Lin and Caris LeVert’s injury status.

Next up: the Clippers on Monday night at 10:30 p.m.