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Nets erase 28-point deficit but fall to Pelicans in double OT, 138-128

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At least it was fun

New Orleans Pelicans v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Kenny Atkinson summed up the vibe around the Nets after they dropped a double OT game to the New Orleans Pelicans - their ninth loss in the last 10 games.

“We’ve talked about this before, you just can’t get in a hole, down 28 against a very good team. But I am proud of the way we kept together.”

It was another game that came down to the last shot the Nets never hit. One play in particular, will be worth watching during tomorrow’s last two minute report.

The Nets lost their fifth straight game, 138-128, Saturday night against the New Orleans Pelicans. Very few times in NBA history has a team trailed the entire game and then forced OT. Then again, the Nets have lost 13 games by five or fewer points.

Only the Nets, man.

The Nets faced both boos and wild cheering in this one. At one point in the third, they were down 89-61 and looked like they would replicate their blowout loss to the Pelicans in New Orleans.

All hope looked lost, but New Orleans was playing the second game of a back-to-back. They were noticeably fatigued, and the Nets feasted on the opportunity. They answered the 28-point deficit with a 39-15 run bridging from the third and fourth quarter.

D’Angelo Russell started things off with seven straight points, part of a 21 point effort in 31 minutes, the most he’s scored since returning from knee surgery. Russell was vital in the comeback, ultimately scoring 13 of is 21 points in the second half. He also grabbed a season-high nine rebounds and nailed a season-high with five 3-pointers. He alone outscored the New Orleans’ bench.

But once again, as it was vs. the Pistons, Allen Crabbe dominated the comeback. He and Russell went on a tear, taking turns whittling the lead down. After scoring five points in the first half, the Nets highest paid player scored 23 in the second half and two overtimes.

The key shot, the one that put the game into OT was Crabbe’s. It was 116-113 with 14 seconds left. Kenny Atkinson drew up a play on the inbounds and Crabbe nailed a three to tie the game at 116 with 12.2 seconds left. That capped a 55-27 extended run for the Nets. Russell was on the bench for all of this.

On the ensuing possession, DeMarre Carroll contested Anthony Davis and forced him to miss a tough fadeaway. OT.

It was 124-124, Nets ball. Carroll drove to the hole, got smacked on the arm. No call.

Turnover Nets.

On the next possession, Jrue Holiday fell into a double team as time expired.

But it wasn’t meant to be.

The Pelicans started the second overtime on a 6-0 run when Carroll fouled out with 2:50 left. Ironic enough.

The Pelicans outscored the Nets 14-4. The Nets could neither hit a shot nor grab a missed shot, it seemed.

Rajon Rondo played a big role in closing this one out. After leaving the game with a minor shoulder injury, Rondo returned which opened up the pick-and-roll game and enabled Holiday to play off the ball. For only the second time this season —both against the Nets — Rondo finished with a triple-double.

The most encouraging aspect of a tough loss: Crabbe has now scored 62 points in two games, including 13 three’s. He matched his career-high for 3-pointers with eight. In the last two games, Crabbe has set or tied career highs in minutes, points, field goals made and attempted; 3 pointers made and attempted,

“I should’ve been playing like this since Day One,” Crabbe said post-game.

Spencer Dinwiddie finished with 24 points and 10 assists, but shot a putrid 5-of-22 from the field, including some bad shots in overtime play. He did hit 12-of-12 at the line.

Davis feasted on both Jarrett Allen, who played only 17 minutes early as well as the smaller Brooklyn defenders who replaced him, finishing the night with 44 points and 17 rebounds. Rondo finished with 25 points, 10 assists and 12 rebounds and Jrue Holiday chipped in 22.

The Nets have now lost nine of the last 10.

ATKINSON ON THE PATTERN OF THE LOSSES

Atkinson seemed frustrated at the game’s end. Positives sure, but ...

“It’s just too many times we’ve gotten in a big hole. I love to talk about the positive - I’m just mystified how the first half was completely different. You can’t get in a hole down 28 against a very good team.”

WHERE THE MINUTES AT?

Jeremy Lin and Russell went down, and Dinwiddie emerged. The big question when Russell returned: How would Kenny Atkinson integrate Russell and Dinwiddie? Both with the starters?

Russell has come off the bench 11 straight games and he’s averaging a little over 18 minutes per game. It’s been hard for him to find rhythm, particularly with the second unit, where he still isn’t getting much time.

“I feel like it’s a situation where the performance team has a say, the coach has a say, and they go by that,” said Russell at Friday’s practice. “I feel great, it’s up to the coaches to make those decisions.”

Then, during last night’s game, there was a mini-controversy. With the Nets down three with 38.6 seconds left in regulation, Russell committed a careless backcourt violation and out he went, replaced by Joe Harris. Russell, who at that point had played 29 minutes, about what he was averaging when he went down in November, didn’t return until the second overtime and only when Carroll had fouled out

Atkinson said the move was about minutes, not about the turnover. The coach has been on Russell about valuing the ball.

“No, it wasn’t about the turnover,” Atkinson said. “It was also about understanding where he is in his return back. He was at 29 minutes there, so definitely could’ve played more. I felt, ‘Let’s save him a little.’ We got him back in in the second overtime, when we were down, but definitely thought about that. I thought Joe did a great job when he was in there, so definitely not about the turnover.”

Make what you want of it, but Russell wants more time. The Nets have an abundance of ball handlers right now and it’s hard for Atkinson to distribute minutes evenly. The performance team has been mentioned a lot when discussing minutes.

So, who calls the shots with players’ minutes, Atkinson or the performance team? Sounds like both, but a coach should have most of the say. It seemed unclear whether that’s happening until Atkinson played Russell 32 minutes on Saturday. It was the most he’s played since returning and the third most he’s played this season.

However, some may ask why DLo wasn’t in the game when it mattered most.

COMEBACKS WITH AND WITHOUT WINS

Dinwiddie was asked post-game how can the Nets keep coming back, game after game, sometimes winning, but mostly losing.

“Because we’re actually talented. We can actually play basketball. We can actually shoot.”

But Crabbe made it clear the team will not get many more wins if they keep repeated the pattern.

“We’re the ones out there playing, we’re the ones out there going through the motions against the other team. It’s just us. We’ve got to get off to better starts.” said Crabbe.

As why they can’t win more, the answer almost certainly is that they’re so young and inexperienced. It takes a while to know how to close out games.