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Garrett Temple leads charge in crucial Nets win over Hawks, 130-118

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Brooklyn Nets v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

With Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert out indefinitely, it’s crucial the Nets get wins when the schedule is light. They’re thin and guys who don’t normally have big roles are forced to step up into bigger roles — but that’s been Brooklyn’s identity under Kenny Atkinson.

Safe to say, a 130-117 victory over the 5-17 Hawks goes a long way for a Nets team that is 7-3 in the 10 games Irving his missed — an 11-10 record on the season.

The Nets struggled in the early portion of the game. Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris combined for just nine points on 3-of-15 shooting, but the Nets still owned a nine-point lead thanks to a concerted team effort.

Taurean Prince dropped 10 straight points in the second quarter — 23 on the night — and gave the Nets enough cushion to carry it into the second half. His stat line was quite impressive in his return to the city where he began his career: 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals with five three-pointers.

“I was 100 percent motivated, especially being the team that traded me away,” said Prince. “That was part of it. It’s sweet to be back. I love the city of Atlanta.”

He was asked about what’s behind his improved play in Brooklyn.

“Patience, just taking what the defense gives me, not really calling for the ball as much, learning how to play off other people, other talents. And raising my level on the defensive end.

“There’s just a lot more trust given to me, a lot more situations I’m put in to be great. Just credit to the Brooklyn Nets for allowing me to be myself.”

He was just one of four Nets’ starters to notch 20+ points.

Next, Dinwiddie got cooking. He scored 12 of his 24 points in the third quarter, leading the Nets to a 35-point quarter.

Then, there was Garrett Temple who was phenomenal — scoring a season-high 27 points with six three-pointers. On the YES telecast, Sarah Kustok explained how Brooklyn’s coaching staff has been in Temple’s ear about shooting more three’s. It’s worked — and then some. He’s become the 3-and-D guy Kenny has sought for so long.

Meanwhile, Jarrett Allen notched his 10th double double of the season with 20 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots on 8-of-11 shooting. He remains the NBA’s most efficient player from the field, hitting two-thirds of his shots on the year. His career shooting percentage is 60 percent. (The Nets now have two players with career shooting averages of better than 60 percent, other being DeAndre Jordan.)

Allen, in fact, was the leader in a charge that started on the defensive end, where the Nets forced 16 turnovers and out-rebounded the Hawks 53-35. They grabbed a season-high 18 offensive rebounds — seven coming from Allen.

The Nets stayed afloat throughout the second half. The closest they came to budging came after a 7-0 run from Atlanta to cut this thing down to eight with 8:49 remaining. Brooklyn stayed consistent on both sides of the ball with Temple leading the charge.

They dished out 26 assists on 50 made field goals, shooting at a 50 percent clip and 45 percent from three (14-of-31). And to further put things into perspective — their best three-point shooter only hit one on the night!

There’s no debate about Irving and his role on this team. The same thing should be said about LeVert. The Nets are a better team with those two playing. Instead of taking things like that, perhaps we should give Atkinson and his staff for continuing to practice what they preach in developing players and making sure they’re ready to be the next man up, should things happen.

Thus far just 21 games into the season, a whole lot has happened. There’s been injuries, suspensions and demotions due to off-court issues, namely Rodions Kurucs who was an integral part of their team last year.

Guys like Dinwiddie, Allen and Harris are expected to step up with the stars absent. Others, such as Temple and Prince, need to step up in order for this team to keep the boat steady in the meantime.

Forget the competition/below-average teams they’ve played for a second. This is a team that had its backs against the wall early and have thus far answered the bell.

Just like Wednesday night, it should be all business on Friday against the 9-14 Charlotte Hornets. Again, these are the games they need to win, no matter how early in the season. Because as of right now, nobody knows when Kyrie will be back; nobody knows when Caris will be back; and obviously, nobody knows when Kevin Durant will be back.

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KYRIE’S STATUS: NOT GOOD, ACCORDING TO THE NY POST

The Nets listed Kyrie Irving as questionable when he first hurt his shoulder. Not much was said about a timetable — following suit to their principles about keeping things in-house regarding these types of matters.

Here’s what Brian Lewis tweeted Wednesday:

Here’s what Lewis wrote in his piece here.

“But two specialists told The Post that Irving is likely to be out a few more weeks, while another source intimated there’s more under the surface and that this injury could be even more long term...

That’s a very, very broad term,” said Dr. Andrew S. Rokito, chief of shoulder surgery at NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital. “Impingement typically does not refer to an acute injury. [It] refers to more of a long-standing, chronic issue with the rotator cuff.

“He could have a rotator cuff injury which could be just tendinitis and inflammation all the way up to a partial tear. It’s unlikely a full tear. … In terms of time off, I can’t answer that question. It’s certainly conceivable if he really hurt his shoulder with an injury to the rotator cuff he may need few weeks.”

Atkinson says that Irving still hasn’t practiced with contact. It’s been nearly three weeks since the injury. It’s safe to say this is worse than the Nets initially let on— or at least we anticipated.

Until then, the Nets will just have to do what they’ve done best.

NEXT MAN UP!

For a different perspective, head on over to Peachtree Hoops, our Hawks sister site on SB Nation.

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NEXT: Charlotte on Friday, 7:00 PM ET.