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Dinwiddie’s late-game heroics, LeVert’s surge and the last week of Nets basketball

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Before the Nets season shut down, the Nets were rolling, thanks to Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. (Don’t think for the slightest second that we forgot about Chris Chiozza either...)

Brooklyn Nets v Los Angeles Lakers

It started with a Caris LeVert 51-point outburst in the backyard of the NBA’s most decorated franchise on March 3, and ended one week later with a thrilling final minute game-winner via Spencer Dinwiddie in the backyard of the second-most decorated team in league history.

In between those two events, the team’s coach, Kenny Atkinson, was dismissed with 20 games remaining in his fourth season with Brooklyn. Yeah, I guess you could say it was an eventful final week for the Nets before the season was put on hold ... and then, of course, it got more eventful.

It’s been a whole entire 103 days ago ... the last time we watched Brooklyn Nets basketball. For context, the duration between the final game of the 2018/19 NBA season (Game 6 of the Finals) and the first game of the 2019/20 season was 131 days—it has damn near been an entire off-season since that night at Staples.

Still, it was a week that was. Oh, was it!

March 3, 2020 - the 51-point game.

Let’s go back a little further, 110 days ago, to March 3, 2020. The slumping 26-33 Nets, losers of four straight, were set to do battle with their division rival, the 41-18 Boston Celtics, at TD Garden. To literally no one’s surprise, the C’s had built a 21-point lead halfway through the third quarter.

Then something magical happened.

With 3:45 left in the third quarter and the Nets down 19, then-coach Atkinson took a look down the tail-end of the bench and called on Chris Chiozza (told you we weren’t just going to glance over him). Immediately upon entering the game, he began to hurl passes to teammates in rhythm that would’ve made the likes of John Stockon or Steve Nash nod in approval; LeVert went scorched-earth, scoring 37 points in the fourth quarter and the OT period—and the Nets won by nine points.

It was an out-of-body, cathartic experience that was the talk of the town on Nets Twitter. We hadn’t quite registered what the hell had just happened—usually we were the ones forfeiting large leads in the second half—all we knew was that we now had an affinity towards Chris Chiozza and that Caris LeVert just had a signature moment against a team we weren’t exactly fond of...on their own hardwood.

Even KD was impressed. Kevin Durant deemed it a “masterpiece,”

Unfortunately, I should mention March 4. The second half of the Nets’ back-to-back against the Celtics and Grizzlies. Listen, it didn’t go well. I’m sure you don’t want to revisit that night, and I don’t really want to type too many words on it. They lost by 39 at home, with Memphis donning their throwback Vancouver Grizzlies jerseys—which was just overkill for a Nets fan living in Vancouver. Let’s move on.

March 6, 2020. The Triple-Double.

Just three days after his 51-point game in Boston that CLV notched his first career triple-double against Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs.

That night he finished with 27 points on 9-16 shooting, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists with just two turnovers in 31 minutes of action. It was his composure, the fluidity in his game while commanding the offense; he picked his spots and played with a certain comfort and malleability that screamed “All-Star.”

In those final five games of the year, LeVert averaged 27.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 6.0 assists on 49.5/44.1/70.0 splits. Good stuff.

Following that 19-point blowout of the Spurs, Atkinson, the fourth winningest coach in Nets history was relieved of his duties with the team sitting at 28-34. Jacque Vaughn, the team’s lead assistant since 2016, was promoted to interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

March 8, 2020. Dinwiddie I.

Now a coaching change can either rejuvenate a team, or have a direct opposite effect. For Spencer Dinwiddie, it was business as usual.

In a game marred by sloppy play and unforced turnovers (Brooklyn turned the rock over 29 times, which yeah, yikes), the Nets scratched out a meager three-point win against the Bulls in their first game under the direction of Vaughn. Dinwiddie, who may have only attempted nine field goal attempts in the victory, got to the line with familiarity; constantly attacking and applying pressure against a surprisingly not terrible (13th in the NBA in DRTG) Bulls defense.

He finished the contest with 24 points on 4-of-9 shooting. The main takeaway was Dinwiddie’s 14-of-15 shooting from the charity stripe. None of his trips to the line were more significant than his last with the Nets up 108-107 with 0.4 seconds left in regulation. He calmly knocked both down, putting the Nets up three, and then stole the ensuing inbound pass to seal the victory.

March 10, 2020. Dinwiddie II.

Now, finally, let’s talk about the last time we watched our beloved Nets take the floor. In what could honestly have been the most impressive win of the season, the Nets escaped with a victory against King James and his fellow nobles dressed in purple-and-gold.

The Lakers had been on a roll, beating the 76ers, Bucks and Clippers before the Nets arrived.

It was a back-and-forth affair, the Nets answering every run generated by the Lakers and vice-versa. It may have been an underwhelming campaign for the Brooklyn Nets but despite numerous knockout blows that may have sent other teams to their corners, the Nets kept gathering themselves in hopes of the ten-count.

Spencer Dinwiddie, who played in all 64 games before the hiatus, had been a major component in prohibiting Brooklyn from a roll-over-and-die moment early in the season. And he wasn’t about to bow down to the King, either. Not in his hometown ... with family watching.

With a half-minute left in regulation and Avery Bradley sweating all over him, he drove left—wasting little time off the inbound knowing a two-for-one situation was in play—and just as he approached the left elbow, he created separation by fading away and drained the mid-range jumper with 28.4 seconds left as all Bradley could do was watch hopelessly.

LeBron would uncharacteristically miss a rather open left-handed lay-up in the restricted area in an attempt to tie the game, and then Anthony Davis missed a glaringly wide-open three from the right wing as the clock expired. The Nets left Los Angeles with a much-needed win. They flew out of L.A., bound for San Francisco and a game where no fans would have been admitted. The game, of course, never took place and the NBA shut down.

What’s it all mean? For openers, the Nets beat two of the NBA’s best teams on their home courts and were on a roll which was cut short through no fault of their own. LeVert proved why so many of us are so high on him, Dinwiddie showed up when we needed him the most, and we got to see 96 minutes of Chris Chiozza. Sure,

Now the Nets (and every other team) will have to wait to see if the momentum they had nearly three months ago will carry into the bubble. If they can, they might just be alright.