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DLo, Dinwiddie lead Nets to second straight win, 113-107

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NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — The “Two-headed snake” of D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie reared its collective head Wednesday and lifted the Nets when they needed it most. The two combined for 53 points, giving the Nets to a 113-107 victory over the 16-49 Cavaliers.

It was the Nets 20th home win, their most since the 2013-2014 season. It was not easy. It was in fact frustrating ... until the final quarter.

“Yeah, I think there was a moment in the fourth quarter where we were desperate,” said Kenny Atkinson, post-game. And even in the third, they had an eight-point lead I think. I’m glad we kept our cool though because you know, maybe last year or two years ago we would lose that lead, or the lead would go to 16 or 18. The fact that we kept our cool, weathered the storm and came back was important.

“We won that game without playing great.”

It was 85-80 in favor of the Cavaliers entering the fourth. The Nets had squandered a 15-point lead. Kevin Love dropped 13 in the third to put Brooklyn’s must-win game in jeopardy.

D’Angelo Russell got the Nets started and repeatedly pushed them, entering the fourth with 25 points. Then, as he has done all season, Spencer Dinwiddie closed it out.

Dinwiddie came into the game early in the quarter and lifted the Nets on a 14-0 run, scoring nine of the 14 while assisting on a monster alley-oop to Rodions Kurucs. The crowd was on its feet with the Nets up 16, en route to their second straight victory.

It was the third time this season that Dinwiddie and Russell each scored 25+ points in a game. Russell finished with 25 points and five assists, but zero points and zero assists in the fourth quarter. Dinwiddie, meanwhile, was the opposite, finishing with 28 points and five assists, 12 of them in the fourth with two assists. It was also Dinwiddie’s 14th game with 20 or more points off the bench, which tops his own record with the Nets.

“I don’t think anybody in the league can really stay in front of those two, so when they’re getting downhill making it easy for us on the offensive end, I think that makes everybody’s job easy,” said Russell.

All that matters: They got the job done.

The Nets are now 34-33 which keeps them safe and sound as the seven seed in the East. They have the same winning percentage as the six-seed Pistons, but Detroit currently owns the tie-breaker.

The Cavaliers shot 40 percent from the field and 42 percent from three, led by Kevin Love who finished with 24 points and 16 rebounds. The Nets, meanwhile, shot 47 percent from the field and 36 percent from three. They shot an abysmal 15-of-26 from the free throw line, part of a troubling trend.

Caris LeVert was big off the bench with 14 points in 20 minutes, while Jarrett Allen finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds. In his second game as a starting four, Kurucs finished with 11 points and seven rebounds. That gives him 30 points and 13 rebounds.

Post-game, Kenny Atkinson anointed the 21-year-old rookie as his starting 4 going forward.

“Kevin Love is a heck of a player and we didn’t necessarily stop him. But, I think Rodi, for a rookie, in this situation – an important game – I thought he did a heck of a job. I love the stop he got from D’Angelo (Russell) when he ran out, and the lob from Spencer.

“Listen, he’s been a pleasant surprise. We sat him for a few games and he didn’t get flustered about that. He’s our starting four man and I felt like with those rebounds, it kind of helps us realize that he can play the four in this league. We were worried tonight with Kevin Love, his strength and all that. I think we held the floor pretty good with him and D.C. (DeMarre Carroll).”

A win is a win. It may not have been Brooklyn’s best game, but DLo and Dinwiddie reminded us just how solid the Nets can be when either of those two have the hot hand.

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PLAYOFF RACE

The Nets are fortunate to have somewhat of a cushion after that mini three-game losing streak they snapped on Monday. Still, things are too close for comfort. The Nets entered Wednesday’s matchup as the seven seed with a 2 12 game lead over the Hornets and Heat. That changed when Miami beat Charlotte. The Hornets are now 3 12 behind the Nets in 10th place, percentage points behind the Magic, losers of two straight.

DLO FOR MIP... AND MORE

A piece came out from a familiar name around these parts about D’Angelo Russell deeming himself the Most Improved Player this season. “Watch. Put it on record. I’m gonna win it,” Russell said confidently. But there was more in there, specifically about his journey with the Nets, that people seem to have missed.

From Ed Davis...

“You know all that s--t from the past… I haven’t seen it. Either he’s doing a great job of hiding it or a lot if it is just bulls--t. That happens a lot in this league. Me and him are tight and have a good relationship. All that stuff in the past… man, I don’t know.”

From Jared Dudley...

“It wasn’t an easy start here for him. He was getting subbed in and out and had guys like Caris [LeVert] and Spencer [Dinwiddie] playing over him. He stuck with it and did the little things like watch film in the middle of the season. Kudos to him for everything… leading us to the six seed, hitting big shots and really becoming the leader of this team.”

“Look, my first impression with D’Angelo was that he was working his a-- off, being on the table, hitting the weight room… A lot of him buying in is Brooklyn… it’s the culture. This is how it is here, and it goes beyond D’Angelo, it’s Joe [Harris], Caris [LeVert], Jarrett [Allen]. Even when I got here, it was late, but they put you in the program and they’re on you. We do a survey every night, 10 questions asking about your body and things like that. D’Angelo really took it serious.”

Spencer Dinwiddie took the conversation to Twitter...

Russell is averaging 20.5 points and 6.7 assists per game — both career-high’s. For more on this read here.

Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Brigade picked up on DLo’s confidence, chanting “MIP” whenever Russell got to the line.

NETS OWNERSHIP LEVELING UP

FYI, there are only four teams whose ownership groups control franchises in the NBA, G League, WNBA and NBA2K leagues: the Nets, Pacers, Lakers and Wizards. If you add new arenas and practice facilities? Only the Nets meet all those criteria.

The Nets two owners, Mikhail Prokhorov and Joe Tsai, both made Forbes annual list of billionaires, with Prokhorov’s wealth estimated at $9.8 billion (No. 139) and Tsai’s at $9.5 billion (No. 147).

With the death of Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen, Prokhorov is now the second richest NBA owner behind only Steve Ballmer, the former Microsoft CEO who owns the Clippers ... and who Forbes estimates is worth more than $40 billion —or twice what Prokhorov and Tsai are worth combined.

KURUCS A SURPRISE FOR CAVALIERS COACH

As Kenny Atkinson said post-game, Rodions Kurucs has been a “pleasant surprise” for the Nets. The No. 40 pick, Kurucs has produced all season long. The Nets in fact are 20-11 with the 6’10” (in sneakers) forward in the starting lineup. Kurucs also appeared in the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star Weekend.

Well, as it turns out, Atkinson isn’t the only coach surprised by Kurucs. Cavs coach Larry Drew admitted before the game that he was “not familiar” with the big Latvian. As Steve Lichtenstein tweeted after the game, Drew’s words came back to haunt him.

HUMBLE JOE

Looking like an extra from “Game of Thrones” at the NBA Store, Harris tried to downplay his ankle-breaker on Luka Doncic.

We’re not buying it.

FINALLY...

After the game, two of LeBron James former teammates, Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye congratulated the King (sorta) on passing Michael Jordan on the all-time NBA scoring list.

For a different perspective, head on over to Fear the Sword, our Cavs sister site on SB Nation.

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The Nets will face the Hawks in Atlanta on Saturday at 7:00 p.m.