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Nets roll through Phoenix and finally win two straight

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NBA: Phoenix Suns at Brooklyn Nets Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Nets fans… we’ve been spoiled. First a buzzer beater and now a two-game win streak! Not to mention blowout!!

Behind a gritty effort – both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, the Nets (15-56) notched its FIRST win streak of the season with a 126-98 rout over the Phoenix Suns (22-50), Thursday night in Brooklyn. The Nets haven’t won two straight games since March 24 of last season!

With the win, the Nets improve to 6-7 in March after going 4-37 from December to February. Call it the Lin effect. We call it development, from both sides: the players AND coaches. And hey, power ranking pundits, take note: the Nets are 5-5 in their last 10.

Kenny Atkinson attributed a lot of the team’s success to his “quarterback.”

“More than his talent, more than his experience, I just think there is a confidence,” Atkinson told Fred Kerber. “I compare it to football when you have your starting quarterback out there and he commands the huddle.

“He commands the respect of everybody: the coaches, the players.”

The Nets won this game after a big second and third quarter bridge, one that saw them outscore Phoenix 62-33 in that span.

They started the game on a very bad note, but Isaiah Whitehead and the bench picked up a 20-0 advantage in the second quarter. Then, they handed it over to Jeremy Lin who scored 11 of his 13 points in the quarter. He also dished out five assists on the night.

Lastly, Brook Lopez scored 12 of his 19 points in the third and led the Nets to a 32-point quarter. The defense was stellar, allowing 15 points in the quarter which is a low for a third quarter this season.

The bench scored a season-high 81 points. Yes, 81 points!

After trailing by as much as 15 in the first quarter, the Nets found a 33-point lead in the fourth quarter. While teams are preparing their tanks for battle, the Nets are out here giving everything they got.

That’s been their identity all season.

Here’s how it went:

The Nets dug themselves in a hole early. The Suns played a stretch 2-3 zone and forced five Brooklyn turnovers and led by as many as 10 by the end of the first quarter. Marquese Chriss and Devin Booker combined to outscore the Nets, but Brooklyn’s second unit had something to say about that.

They came in and did their usual gritty things.

They started the second quarter on a 9-0 run behind a seven-point jolt from Isaiah Whitehead, 15-2 extended. The bench got off to a magnificent start and put Brooklyn ahead with a 29-2 advantage in the first half. That, plus a 12-point second quarter from Jeremy Lin, gave Brooklyn a 31-18 advantage.

The score at half was 52-50, Nets.

The Nets carried the momentum into the second half and found their largest lead through three quarters at 19. Brook Lopez scored 12 of his 19 points in the third quarter, leading the Nets to a 32-15 quarter and 84-65 lead entering the fourth.

They went up by 27 three minutes into the fourth. Game. Set. Match.

LIVE AND DIE BY THE THREE? NAH.

The Nets have relied on the three ball, shot a horrid 8-of-29 from deep, but that didn’t break them. Instead, they scored 58 points in the paint and 34 points in transition. The stellar defense led to better offense, something we’ve rarely seen this year.

BROOKLYN’S BENCH AND K.J. MCDANIELS

Brooklyn’s bench surpassed their season average of 45 points per game and went off for a SEASON-HIGH 81 points. Everybody off the bench was stellar, namely Isaiah Whitehead (11 points), Quincy Acy (12 points), Trevor Booker (14 points and eight rebounds), Archie Goodwin (12 points) and last but not least, K.J. McDaniels.

McDaniels went off for a season-high 16 points and eight rebounds, his second consecutive game in double figures after doing so just twice in the first 39 games of the season. His previous high was 15 points which came on February 6 of 2015.

In the last two games, Goodwin has played 26 minutes, scoring 22 points, grabbing eight rebounds and handing out six assists.

These guys are hungry to earn a spot on the roster next season.

RONDAE’S RECORD AND OTHER NOTES

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson finished with a career-high 16 rebounds. His previous high was 14. More significantly, he did it all in 15 minutes. No one has done that 1983-84.Behind his lead, the Nets out-rebounded Phoenix 60-51.

For Phoenix, Devin Booker led with 28 points on a putrid 9-of-26 shooting. Marquese Chriss had himself a nice game with 21 points and 10 rebounds. The Suns starting lineup was the NBA’s youngest ever, at just over 21 minutes.

INACTIVES

PHX: Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Tyson Chandler, T.J. Warren, Ronnie Price and Dragan Bender.

BK: Joe Harris and Sean Kilpatrick.

***

Is this the most fun last place team in NBA history? It’s bold, but worth the discussion.

Next up: tomorrow at Washington against a familiar face: Bojan Bogdanovic!