Nets, Hornets meet again after last week's drama
Just last weekend, clutch baskets by D'Angelo Russell, and a timely block by Caris LeVert on Kemba Walker, helped the Brooklyn Nets escape with a dramatic win over the Charlotte Hornets.
It also left the Hornets infuriated with the officiating on the final sequence.
Two of the three meetings between the teams have been filled with drama and the season series will conclude Friday night when the Hornets visit the Nets.
The Nets are expected to a get a boost since Spencer Dinwiddie is set to return Friday. Dinwiddie has been out since Jan. 23 due to torn ligaments in his right thumb and practiced with Brooklyn's G-League team Thursday after coach Kenny Atkinson said he was close to returning.
"Great, good, yeah," Atkinson said on NBA.com about Dinwiddie's performance on Thursday morning. "The first thing that stands out about Spencer is his body, like he's an Adonis. It's unbelievable how fast he is, how just the talent screams at you. He's 6-6 1/2, and it's just great to have him back."
When the teams last got together Saturday in Charlotte, Russell scored the last 12 points for Brooklyn and tied a career high with 40 points in a 117-115 victory. Brooklyn escaped with the win when Walker was blocked by LeVert on a play that could have been called a foul, but in the league's two-minute report, it was ruled to be a correct non-call.
Brooklyn has won two of the three meetings, including a wild 134-132 double-overtime home win on Dec. 26 when Joe Harris hit the tiebreaking layup with 3.4 seconds left in the second overtime.
The Nets, sixth place in the Eastern Conference, enter 1 1/2 games ahead of Detroit and are also in front of Charlotte, Miami, and Orlando in a tight race to remain or become playoff-eligible. A victory on Friday would give Brooklyn the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Hornets.
Brooklyn is 5-8 in its last 13 games and 2-4 in its last six home games after going 13-1 at home from Dec. 7-Jan. 29.
On Wednesday, the Nets were unable to follow up a strong defensive showing in a 16-point home win over San Antonio and were handed a 125-116 loss to the Washington Wizards. The Nets scored the first 10 points of the game but wound up trailing by as many as 28 points in the second half.
"This one stings," Harris said afterward. "You know, you could feel it when everybody was walking into the locker room afterwards. It was really uncharacteristic of our team. We really haven't been in a situation like this all season. I think we ended up losing by nine, but it should have been a lot more. And it was a lot worse than the final score indicated."
Russell scored 28 points but the rest of Brooklyn's starters combined for 24 points and that included a scoreless showing from LeVert, who is struggling to get his rhythm back since returning from a foot injury on Feb. 8.
Last weekend's loss to the Nets started a three-game losing streak for Charlotte, which is 2-7 in its last nine games since reaching .500 following a win over Chicago on Feb. 2.
Charlotte followed up its loss to the Nets on Saturday with an 11-point loss to Golden State on Monday and a 118-113 loss to Houston on Wednesday.
"We just have to keep chipping away," Hornets coach James Borrego said. "We can't hang our heads. We're battling against the top teams right now. We're giving ourselves a chance. We felt like we gave one away at home here (Saturday) night against Brooklyn. We battled against two tough teams (Golden State and Houston). We're right there. We just have to stay with it -- don't hang our heads, move on to the next game, get better, just keep pounding away and this thing will turn in our direction."
Walker scored 35 points but struggled after scoring 27 points on 9 of 10 shooting in the first half. He also missed two 3-pointers in the final minute of the game.
"We just have to stay confident," Walker said. "We are playing really hard, competing our butts off. That's really all that matters."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 28, 2019