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An assessment: Kilpatrick’s big night and what it means for the Brooklyn Nets

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Los Angeles Clippers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Sean Kilpatrick and the Brooklyn Nets were one quarter away from losing their eighth game in a row. Kilpatrick appeared disappointed in himself as he watched the Los Angeles Clippers extend its lead to 18 late in the third quarter.

As the Nets’ fate looked inevitable for an eighth straight game, Kilpatrick looked down the bench at Kenny Atkinson who laid a bit into him by saying, ‘you’ve got a whole game left. Get up.’ At that point, Kilpatrick had just seven points on 3-of-14 shooting.

He got the nod to start the fourth quarter and the deficit lingered from 13-16 points through the first couple of minutes. The Nets needed some sort of offensive spark. Kilpatrick answered the call.

At the 9:26 mark of the fourth, Kilpatrick delivered a 3-pointer to put Brooklyn down 13. Following a technical foul on Marreese Speights, Kilpatrick hit a 5-footer and then another 3-pointer. Suddenly, with the Brooklyn crowd back into the game, the Nets found themselves trailing by seven with eight minutes left.

In came the Clippers’ starters.

It didn’t matter. With 3:36 left, the Nets tied the game thanks to another Sean Kilpatrick 3-pointer. The Nets were on a 21-7 run after Kilpatrick electrified Brooklyn by scoring 15 of the 21 points. He had taken over the game, dominating Chris Paul.

Kilpatrick had L.A. scratching its head. They had beaten the Nets by 32 a little over two weeks ago, and they were on their way to a blowout victory before the fourth quarter even started. In the end, Kilpatrick scored 20 points in the fourth and a career-high 38 total on the night, leading Brooklyn to a 127-122 double overtime victory.

Although he took 34 shots and missed two opportunities to end the game (regulation and first OT), he put the game away with a drive to the hole, getting past Paul and DeAndre Jordan. Count the basket and the foul. He scored five points in the 2nd OT. L.A. scored only four.

…The fans cried out in joy, "Brooooo-kklynnn!" And it was organic. No need for any help from the PA announcer.

In his 51st career game, Kilpatrick became the first Net to record 35+ points and 10+ rebounds since Brook Lopez did in 2010.  First Net to go for 38 and 14 since Vince Carter!

One of the great things about Sean Kilpatrick’s 38-point performance is that Mikhail Prokhorov got to see firsthand what Sean Marks and the new regime have done with very limited wiggle room. Prokhorov sat (or stood) with Sean Marks in his usual suite, watching his rebuilding project pull out a victory behind the lead of an unlikely hero. Sean Marks doesn’t need to convince anybody that he knows what he’s doing. His product is putting out the results for him.

That all sounds crazy for a team that has a 5-12 record and has lost seven of its last eight. But that isn’t the point. Nobody is monitoring the standings during the rebuild. Sean Kilpatrick was Marks’ first pickup of his GM career. Kilpatrick was the leading scorer in the D-League, however, due to his age (26), there were few teams willing to take a risk on him. Not to mention, he had failed in two other call-ups, one with Minnesota in 2014-15, and the other with Denver.

An awful season in Brooklyn led to him getting a real chance, starting with two 10-day deals, and then a three-year deal. The first year was for the remainder of last season, then he has a guarantee at less than a million for this year and a team option at slightly more than a million next year.

Talk about a model for the Brooklyn Nets franchise going forward. All for a cheap price, too. He came in as the ultimate underdog. Now he’s the epitome of what the Brooklyn Nets are all about: high character, hard-working guys playing with something to prove.

Doesn’t that sound familiar with Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson? Good culture within an organization is formed from the leaders at the top. It trickles down to the rest of the staff and players who have the same goal in getting better everyday. Those two work endlessly to establish things the way they want them. A wise man once said, the harder you work the luckier you get. And another Brooklyn GM, Branch Rickey, put it more articulately, "Luck is the residue of design." That’s fair to say about Marks, Atkinson and the byproduct of the two in Kilpatrick.

Last season, Kilpatrick showed signs of being a streaky scorer. Under Kenny Atkinson and the rest of the coaching staff, Kilpatrick has shown that he's developed into something special. He's become the perfect example for the younger guys by playing hard and competing every night.  He was in the gym a week after last season ended, so appreciative of the chance he got.

Asked if Kilpatrick is an emotional leader, Atkinson answered by saying, "He is an emotional competitor. I have said that since training camp. There are guys that are competitors and then there are guys that love – he really enjoys the competition. Whatever we are doing in practice, whether it is a walkthrough, he is just a competitive guy and we’re lucky to have him."

The former D-League journeyman is averaging 16 points and four rebounds in 27 minutes per game this season. He’s been a huge factor in the five wins, averaging 22.6 points and 8.6 rebounds.

Kilpatrick and the Nets should feel good about the victory they earned. He was the leader in a gritty game down the stretch. And yet, what stands out most is how the undrafted Kilpatrick is a model for this franchise now and in the future.