ATLANTA — Kenny Atkinson tweaked his rotation ever so slightly, but it backfired in spectacular fashion.
Caris LeVert has been the Nets’ best player by far, and Atkinson wanted to get more minutes out of him in the fourth quarter with Friday’s game against the Hawks expected to be tight.
So the coach pulled LeVert early in the second quarter, giving him an extra breather.
That was all his struggling Nets needed to give away the game to Atlanta, the second-worst team in the entire NBA.
“There’s a reason behind it. We wanted to get him more minutes in the second half,” Atkinson said after the Nets’ 141-118 loss. “Previously, we were putting him in too late in the fourth quarter, so, it was a way to get his minutes back there and get him back at the end of the game.
LeVert was coming off a 34-point outing in Washington, and had helped spot the Nets to a 43-38 when he took a seat with 7:37 left in the second quarter. But he didn’t check back in and they didn’t have any other answers. The Hawks closed on a 30-19 run to flip the Nets’ five-point lead into a six-point deficit at the break.
They never recovered, coughing up 141 points, the most they’ve allowed all season.
“Just taking pride on defense. Offense wasn’t the problem. We let up too many points. We’ve got to get our mojo back on that end of the court,” LeVert said.
“We’ve got to get back to the drawing board, get back to doing what we do best. We’ve got to get back to playing Nets basketball and we’re not doing that right now. We’ve got to figure it out.”
Wilson Chandler, who missed Wednesday’s loss in Washington with a personal issue, was back with the team. He had two points and three rebounds in 18:20.
The Nets also recalled rookie Nic Claxton from G-League Long Island. The second-round pick got in for the final 3:39 of garbage time, with four points, a rebound and a dunk.
Vince Carter, who starred for the Nets from 2004-09, sent a bunch of signed jerseys to the Nets’ locker room. Garrett Temple was among those who got one. The veteran is the oldest player on Brooklyn’s locker at 33-years-old. He’s a decade younger than Carter, who is 43.