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Down 3-1 after wild weekend, Nets feel like they have a chance

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NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at Brooklyn Nets Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

It was a wild weekend, with the Nets 112-108 loss Saturday just one part of it. There was an on-court scrum that bled into the stands; ejections and fines for two players; a suspension and fine for the GM; ownership seemingly defying the league office with its support for the GM and —critically— an admission by the league office that refs missed a crucial call with 12 seconds left.

Still, the Nets are down to their last chances, maybe their last game of a special season. They’ll leave Monday for Philadelphia, down 3-1, hoping they can reprise their Game 1 upset Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

“We’d like to make that excuse, obviously this is a learning experience. For a lot of us, this is our first time playing big minutes in the playoffs,” Spencer Dinwiddie said. “But we were right there [in Game 4]. We feel like we should’ve won.

“We weren’t saying this was a learning experience when we won Game 1. So we can’t fall back on that now. We need to try to pull off something incredible.”

The Nets played without a key back-up, Ed Davis, whose ankles —both of them— prevented him from putting up more than 16 minutes in Games 2 and 3 and had him out for Game 4. No word on whether he’ll be back for Game 5.

Still, there were positives the Nets can look to. Caris LeVert, inserted in the starting lineup, looked phenomenal, with 25 points, four rebounds and six assists, a few of them of the alley-oop variety to Jarrett Allen. Despite being overwhelmed by Joel Embiid —and the target of his elbows, Allen had 21 points, eight rebounds and four assists. D’Angelo Russell didn’t have a great shooting night 6-of-19 for 21 points, he hit a clutch three to give the Nets their last lead with 50 seconds left.

Everyone seemed to think the adjustments made sense.

“Definitely so. We came out here we played our hardest, and I know we came up short but there’s a lot of things we can improve on,” Allen said. “There’s a lot of mistakes we made out there, a lot of little mistakes, and if we fix those, I think we can take it.”

“I thought it was a great move for Coach,” Russell said. “He’s been making changes throughout the whole season that have given us an advantage to compete and give ourselves a chance.

“As far as going back to Philly, this game reminded us of Game 1. We’re trying to figure out the right recipe to attack on the offensive end, and it gave us a good look on the defensive end as well.”

There was a bit of an admission that yes, they are young, and yes, for many —including LeVert, Allen and Russell— their first post-season.

“On the court at the end of the game I think it was almost all of our first playoffs, except for Joe [Harris], so it’s kind of tough for us,” Allen said. “Not tough, but we need to be better in the end of the games, especially in the playoffs when we know it’s going to be more difficult than the regular season.”

The Nets don’t seem to be concerned about Joe Harris’ sudden cold snap. The league’s best three-point shooter went 0-of-6 Saturday and 0-of-16 in their three losses. Their advice to him: keep shooting.

“Joe’s the best 3-point shooter in the league, so we’re going to have the utmost confidence in him to hit,” said Dinwiddie. “He’s played, what, 75 games, 80 games this year and been the best 3-point shooter in the league. We’re not going to give up on him now because of three playoffs games: That’s not going to happen.”

Finally, the team and his coach believe in Dudley and not just his veteran presence, but his contributions on the court. J.D. was a surprise insertion in the starting line-up and although he got tossed, he showed, once again, that he can still play at a high level.

Asked about Dudley’s impact, Kenny Atkinson said, “Oh, man, he was great. It reminded me of Game 1. He has an understanding, an IQ that really helps our team. He has a physicality. He knows playoff basketball. He was a huge reason I thought we played well tonight.”