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Nets late surge vs. Hornets falls just short, 105-100

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Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

BROOKYN, N.Y. -- The Nets finally got the change they long waited for: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson finally returning back to action. Unfortunately, their losing ways continued.

This time those losing ways came against the Charlotte Hornets. Final score, 105-100. The Nets fought and scored 36 points in the fourth quarter, but the Hornets scored 38 in the quarter and simply outplayed the Nets down the stretch.

The Nets went down by as many as 17 in the third quarter, but behind the lead of Brook Lopez and Sean Kilpatrick, they stormed back with a 14-0 run and eventually tied the game at 64 apiece.

They outscored the Hornets 28-21 in the third and trailed by three entering the fourth.

Then, the fourth quarter started off real ugly. The Nets started with the frontcourt duo of Henry Sims and Thomas Robinson and the Hornets went on a 10-0 run and regained a nine-point lead.

But the Nets wouldn't go away. They went on a late 8-0 run and cut the deficit to three following an EMPHATIC slam from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. The crowd was the loudest it's been in quite a while at Barclays. The Hornets lead shrunk to three points with 40 seconds left.

The last hope came with the Nets down four. They were desperate for a bucket with the crowd going wild, but as usual it ended in disappointment. To be precise, it ended with a Brook Lopez 3-pointer that fell about two feet short of the rim. Game over.

Lopez, who sat last game due to a virus, was feeling better and made the playoff-bound Hornets ill. He led the way with 29 points, nine rebounds and a season-high tying six assists.

Sean Marks' diamond in the rough, Sean Kilpatrick, also kept the Nets afloat with a career-high 25 points on 9-of-12 shooting and 4-of-5 from 3-point.

Hollis-Jefferson, who missed 50 games and hadn't played since December 4th with a fractured right ankle, finally made his return and looked spry. He finished with only five points and three rebounds, but when the moment called for it, Rondae drove in the lane and put home a MEAN slam. I'm talking a mean side of RHJ we've never seen before.

"I wish I could have played him more, but it’s just unfortunate," Nets interim coach Tony Brown said of Hollis-Jefferson. The rookie said the team is limiting him to 14-16 minutes per game to begin his comeback. "His energy level is something that we missed since he’s been out, and I’m happy to see him."

His defensive activity and hustle continued to impress. His jump shot looked pretty good from mid-range. His one three-point attempt, well, not so much.

"It felt good just to be out there talking, playing defense, helping my team offensively," Hollis-Jefferson said after the game. "It felt good to be a teammate, to be out there on the floor instead of in a blazer on the sideline."

Lopez agrees.

"He's just such a spark plug," Lopez said. "He brings a lot to the team and definitely take us up another few notches. We've come to expect that from him and we've been missing it throughout the season."

Happy as he was with RHJ's return, Brown was angry about other players' attitudes.

"I like the spirit of Sean Kilpatrick. I love the spirit of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. And they play their butts off when they're out there," Brown said. "Unfortunately, we don't have enough guys pulling the rope in that direction. It's frustrating because they can do better, but I'm at a point in the season where I'm going to play the guys who are going to play more spirited basketball."

As for Charlotte, it wasn't the usual suspect Kemba Walker who killed the Nets, but rather Nicolas Batum (23 points) AND Jeremy Lin (21 points).

Bojan Bogdanovic has averaged 29.7 points in the last three games, scored 14 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter.

It was a battle in Brooklyn and a whole lot of fun. Moral victories are acceptable at this point of the season, right?!

For post-game quotes, head over to LISTEN UP!

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Next up: Cleveland Cavaliers, Thursday night at 7:30 p.m.

For more on the Charlotte Hornets, check them out at At The Hive.