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Dinwiddie, defense lead Nets in 116-97 victory over Kings

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Sacramento Kings v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The Nets were up big late in the fourth — time being their only enemy. The game was relatively slow with Brooklyn grinding out another win on the back of their defense. Ian Eagle utters the words: “The Nets are just waiting to deliver the knockout punch.”

Those were the words that boomed before Theo Pinson forced Nemanja Bjleica outside, shook him and nailed a mid-range jumper to put the Nets up 21 late in the fourth.

Perhaps it was the theme of the night for the Nets — the third game in the last four in which the “next man up” mentality came to fruition ... and resulted in a victory.

With Kyrie Irving (shoulder) out for the last four and Caris LeVert (thumb) out for the last six, every game for the Nets has to be a gritty one with performances from that next man up.

Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris paddled the boat, the rest kept it steady. The defense was phenomenal and the Nets defeated the equally undermanned Kings, 116-97, Friday night at Barclays Center. It’s the second straight game the Nets held their opponent to fewer than 100 points. The last time that happened was a year ago.

They’re 3-1 since Kyrie has been out with a shoulder injury. (To be fair, three of the last four teams are below-.500 teams.) But as of right now, so are the Nets.

These are the ones they should find a way. Against Sacramento, the focal point was defense. They were up against a Kings squad playing without De’Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Marvin Bagley and took full advantage. They missed 22-of-26 attempts from three and struggled to defend Brooklyn’s offensive prowess behind the likes of Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie.

Harris got hot in the second quarter and hit four three-pointers in the span of three minutes, giving the Nets a 12-point lead. He hit five on the night and finished with 22 points. The momentum behind his lead carried the Nets the rest of the way, never letting this thing get closer than seven.

Spencer Dinwiddie, however, has really been the leader of this team since Kyrie went down. He’s scored 20+ points in the last four games, finishing Friday night with 23 points, seven assists and two steals in 28 minutes.

Brooklyn went up big in the third quarter. They had a seven-point lead, but stayed consistent throughout, came up with the stops they needed, and hit their shots from deep. They shot 50.6 percent from the field and nailed 12 three-pointers on 34 attempts.

They had their imperfections, too. They went 22-of-31 from the line and turned the ball over 18 times, which was the difference of them running away with this one early. Oh well.

Every game needs to be a gritty one for the Nets as they battle injuries. Role players need to maintain their energy on both sides of the ball if they want to keep the boat afloat while they deal with the injury bug. Guys like Garrett Temple, who finished with 18 points, need to step up. Even someone like Dzanan Musa (10 points), who’s getting significant minutes for the first time in his young career.

“I think our defense was outstanding again,” said Kenny Atkinson post-game. “I thought our activity, we talked about it pregame, just having a more active group. I thought they were active, a lot of deflections, forcing turnovers, so that’s good news. Just another good team win. Obviously, Spencer (Dinwiddie) is doing it at a high level consistently since Kyrie (Irving) has been out. But really good team win.”

Atkinson also praised Theo Pinson and Dzanan Musa for their contributions.

“I think Musa’s still trying to find his shot. Obviously he’s not afraid to shoot it, even when he’s missing. I think we all know that, and sometimes from 35 feet, which, we’ll talk to him about that. He did get to the free throw line tonight. He’s an aggressive player. I think if he starts to get going, that’s really going to help. It’s just a matter of time, because I’ve seen it. I know he can do it. But Theo’s play, elevating his play two games in a row, that’s been huge for us.”

Brooklyn has the struggling Knicks on Sunday.

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BED STUY NETS

The Nets unveiled their new city edition jerseys on Thursday, a tribute to Biggie with the coogi trim on the sides of a clean white jersey. On the front, it says “Bed Stuy” — Biggie’s hometown in Brooklyn. We let the fans decide how they feel about them.

Although the Nets won’t wear the new jerseys for a week, they were on sale and we spotted more than one around the arena Friday night.

For a different perspective on the game, head on over to Sactown Royalty, our Kings sister site on SB Nation.

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NEXT UP: At Knicks, 6:00 PM ET on Sunday.