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Nets return from break and lose eighth straight game

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... Will it ever end?

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Charlotte Hornets Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

We’re back… with a loss.

The Nets picked off right where they left off, losing their eighth consecutive game and 12th in the last 13, 111-96, Thursday night at Charlotte. The Nets didn’t play bad but they failed to get over the hump all night .

Positive? Dante Cunningham kept them afloat all night and finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds, his first game in double figures with the Nets and a new season-high. In fact, it’s not an exaggeration to suggest it was his best game in years.

The start of games has become one of the biggest issues this season, so head coach Kenny Atkinson decided to tweak the lineup a bit – inserting D’Angelo Russell into the backcourt with Spencer Dinwiddie.

Dinwiddie’s seven assists and Russell’s 10 points in the first half gave signs of hope for the game and for the lineup moving forward, as the Nets only trailed by two at half, 55-53. But the script flipped.

The Hornets started the second half on an 13-2 run and took a 13-point lead, but the Nets answered with a 9-0 run of their own, cutting the deficit down to six entering the fourth. They hung around but failed to get over the hump all night.

They trailed by seven early in the fourth, but the Hornets went on a 10-2 run and grabbed their largest lead at 15. They outscored the Nets 31-22 in the fourth.

Kemba Walker got cooking late and finished with 31 points and seven assists.

For Brooklyn, the new backcourt played well but it wasn’t enough. Russell finished with 19 points and five assists, while Dinwiddie finished with 12 points and nine assists.

As we know by now, the Nets play small and (try to) make teams pay by stretching the floor. They shot just 14-of-43 from 3-point and were also out-rebounded by 13. Dwight Howard grabbed 24 rebounds ALONE and notched a double double just 10 minutes into this game.

Brooklyn’s style of play is understandable given the fact that it’s basically their only advantage against bigger teams, but this has been a season-long issue.

The lack of depth in the frontcourt is indeed appalling, and with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson out, things have only gotten worse. They’re 1-10 since he went down.

DLO STARTS (!)

For the first time since November 11, D’Angelo Russell started after coming off the bench the past 13 games. This was the anticipated move prior to DLo’s return. Questions lingered how he and Spencer Dinwiddie would coexist.

“I do like having two guards that can really handle the ball. Now, you’ve got to look at the other pieces and how they fit,” said Kenny Atkinson at shootaround Tuesday.

The lineup consisted of: Spencer Dinwiddie, D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll, and Jarrett Allen. They played much better and only trailed by four after the first quarter.

WHAT’S JAH PROBLEM?

For the second straight game, Jahlil Okafor was a DNP-CD. In the last five games, Okafor has played a total of 27 minutes. Perhaps this is why.

CRABBE MAKING STRIDES

Allen Crabbe’s second made 3-pointer of the night was his 140th of the season, moving him into sole possession of 7th place in Nets single-season history. But he didn’t get the minutes or the shot attempts he’s had recently and finished with only 11 points in 31 minutes, compared with 25 points in 37 minutes over the previous four games.

Next, he will chase Joe Johnson who hit 148 in the 2012-2013 season.

DINWIDDIE A BIT BEAT?

As any All-Star can tell you, the All-Star Break isn’t much of a break ... at all. It also applies to those in the skills challenges. Kenny Atkinson alluded to that post-game.

FINISH STRONG

The Brooklyn Nets currently have one less win than they did all last season. There are still 21 games left, so there has certainly been some improvement. After the All-Star break last season, the Nets finished 11-15 and 5-5 in the last 10. They’ll look to do the same this season and they have a particular goal: Get 30 wins.

For a different perspective, head on over to At the Hive.