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LeVert, Russell lead Nets in rout over 76ers, 122-97

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NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Brooklyn Nets Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — With a four-game road trip coming up against Phoenix, Denver, Golden State, and Minnesota, this was a must-win game, even if it was only the tenth game of the season.

Behind a monster third quarter and balanced attack from starters Caris LeVert, D’Angelo Russell and Jarrett Allen — and from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson off the bench, the Brooklyn Nets (4-6) defeated the Philadelphia 76ers (6-5), 122-97, Sunday evening at Barclays Center.

The Nets started last season 4-6 and have already won more games against Atlantic Division teams this year. (Two to one.)

LeVert finished with 20 points, five rebounds, and four steals, while Russell had 21 points and six assists in 25 minutes. Jarrett Allen also had himself a night with 15 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks, holding Joel Embiid to three points in the second half. Hollis-Jefferson, who came into the game after Jared Dudley got into foul trouble, also had 21 points, six rebounds, and three assists in 30 minutes. Although he started, Dudley played only 14 minutes.

After forcing 17 turnovers in the first half, the Nets led 51-47, but it was not pretty. It was a very slow-paced game with sloppy offensive sets for both teams.

Then, the Nets turned on the jets against a 76ers team playing in the second night of a back-to-back. They went on a 15-2 run and outscored the Sixers, 41-28, in the third, taking a 17-point lead entering the fourth.

What changed?

“We capitalized on their turnovers. They had [27], I don’t know how many we had, but we tried to get in transition and make plays and score. They’re a really good defensive team in the half court,” said Russell after the game.

The 41 points in the third quarter marked the third most points the Nets have ever scored in a third quarter in Barclays Center history. Safe to say, the Nets haven’t been a good third quarter team in the six years since the arena opened.

The most important part, though, was that they finished it out. The Sixers never really made a push as Brooklyn’s reserves got the job done before the starters came back in. Russell hit the jumper to put Brooklyn up 22 points with 6:13 remaining in the game. From there in, it was one long cruise to the locker room.

Nets forced a season-high 27 turnovers with Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Robert Covington combining for 15 of them. The 27 turnovers forced were an NBA season-high and the most by a Nets opponent since the 2013-14 season.

Ben Simmons was a machine with 20 points and 12 rebounds, while Embiid tallied 16 points and 15 rebounds, but only three of those points came in the second half. The Sixers hit just four three-pointers on the night, missing 16.

Hollis-Jefferson had his best game of the season looking an awful lot like the RHJ we saw from last year.

For a team that’s battled against some good teams this year, it was refreshing to see them finally get rewarded for it. Perhaps more importantly, the Nets broke an ugly five-game streak of giving up 115 or more points.

Kenny Atkinson liked what he saw.

“I said pregame that our defense had slipped a little. I’m glad the guys responded,” said the head coach.

He also had praise for Russell who he kept on the bench during the fourth quarter in the loss to the Rockets.

“I think the challenge for him is to do it on this road trip and keep doing it,” said Atkinson. “I thought we did a great job in our pace and getting him free within the flow (of our offense).”

Brett Brown had a different take on the game.

“I give credit to Brooklyn, but that is an unacceptable performance [by 76ers],” said Brown.

CARIS LEVERT’S MENTORSHIP PROGRAM

Caris LeVert is not only making a difference on the court, but off the court as well. LeVert has launched “The 22 Initiative” through his desire to give back to the Brooklyn community and remembering how challenging high school was from the demands of academics to unexpected life changes and personal tragedies.

Here he is talking to some Brooklyn youngsters...

His objective? He will work with 22 high school freshman and sophomore students throughout the season to provide six life skills based on educational and career development experiences that will help them be more confident and focused on their goals.

LeVert kicked off the initiative by hosting students on Sunday as they got to network and hear from Nets executives before the 6:00pm tip. Caris himself has dealt with his own personal tragedies in life, with his father’s passing at a young age and his mother currently dealing with multiple sclerosis.

NETS SALUTE BROOKLYN EDUCATORS

Maurice Stinnett is the Nets —and BSE Global’s— new vice president of Diversity and Inclusion. Sunday night, he was in a suite, along with Sean Marks, honoring the borough’s educators. That’s him in the front row with the scarf.

“Something special brewing?” Sounds interesting.

DINWIDDIE’S KICKS - TRIBUTE TO A.I.

TREVEON GRAHAM NEARING A RETURN

Brian Lewis spoke with the Nets swingman who’s been out since October 19 with a strained hamstring. Although Shams Charania tweeted that he could be out for two months, Graham seemed to indicate his return will be lot quicker.

***

For postgame audio, click here. For a different perspective (and not a happy one), head on over to Liberty Ballers, our SB Nation sister site.

Next up: The Nets will face the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. as part of their four-game road-trip. After that? Denver on Friday and then Golden State on Saturday.