Brooklyn Nets: How Spencer Dinwiddie got his groove back

Brooklyn Nets Spencer Dinwiddie. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets Spencer Dinwiddie. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Spencer Dinwiddie put the Brooklyn Nets on his back late in regulation and carried them into overtime, but it was an earlier play that set up the explosion.

To be clear, Spencer Dinwiddie was not in a “slump.” Brooklyn Nets coach Kenny Atkinson even said so, publicly, after apologizing to his sixth man for saying so following the Nets’ loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday.

No, let’s describe Dinwiddie’s last nine games heading into Wednesday’s road clash with the Houston Rockets in Wall Street terms — he was in a marked downturn.

Over a nine-game stretch that began with Brooklyn’s road loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Dec. 28, Dinwiddie had averaged 10.9 points, 3.8 assists and 2.2 rebounds in 25.3 minutes per game, shooting 35.9 percent overall and 33.3 percent from 3-point range.

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That compared to 18.1 points, 5.3 assists and 2.6 boards in 29.2 minutes a night over his first 36 games on 47.1 percent and 37.3 percent shooting.

Through three quarters on Wednesday, that downturn appeared to be continuing, as Dinwiddie had scored just eight points on 3-of-9 shooting with four assists and two turnovers.

There was a moment in the fourth quarter where everything changed. It was such an “eff you” message to the Rockets, the officials and everyone else that I wrote it down and circled it.

A little more than halfway through the quarter, Austin Rivers drove for a layup that gave the Rockets a 112-99 lead.

Six seconds later, Dinwiddie was softly laying the ball in the basket at the other end of the court after taking the inbounds pass and turning on the jets.

That play came a couple of minutes after Dinwiddie was slapped with an offensive foul on a drive to the rim following a collision with Houston forward P.J. Tucker.

Dinwiddie didn’t like the call, particularly not when James Harden was in the process of shooting 22 free throws in the second half and overtime alone. But it was teammate D’Angelo Russell who took up Dinwiddie’s cause, picking up a technical foul a couple of seconds later.

Dinwiddie missed his next attempt, a floater in the lane.

With the Nets trailing by seven and time winding down, Dinwiddie erupted.

A finger roll with 1:29 remaining cut the deficit to five. With 26.2 seconds to go, Dinwiddie canned a 3-pointer from nearly 30 feet away to make it a three-point game.

After Harden split a pair of free throws, Dinwiddie pulled up for a 3-ball above the break and drilled it with 21.5 seconds to go, cutting Houston’s lead — which had been as much as 14 and stood at 11 points with 2:29 left — to one.

Harden was fouled and made two more free throws with 12.7 seconds left. Dinwiddie brought the ball up and pulled up again … and as Ian Eagle would say, “bottom!” With 8.4 seconds left in regulation, the game was tied.

Eleven points in the last 1:29 of regulation.

He wasn’t done.

He scored Brooklyn’s first two baskets of overtime — a run of 15 straight points for the Nets — but Houston was pulling away again. Joe Harris fouled Harden on a 3-pointer and the reigning MVP made all three free throws to put the Rockets back up by four.

After Dinwiddie missed a wild hook shot attempt and then turned the ball over on a bad pass, James Nunnally‘s 3-pointer put the Rockets ahead by seven with 1:28 to go.

Dinwiddie drove the lane at the other end and made a nifty pass along the baseline to Treveon Graham, who buried a corner 3. After Houston turned the ball over on a shot-clock violation, Dinwiddie made another nice feed, this time to Jarrett Allen strolling down the lane.

Allen missed the free throw after making the shot, but the deficit was down to two.

With 28 seconds left, Dinwiddie took on Tucker again, this time throwing a little Euro step at the bulky forward and drawing the foul. The three-point play gave the Nets their first lead since the middle of the second quarter.

The Nets ended up scoring the final 10 points in overtime to get a huge win, just their third victory this season after trailing by 10 points or more in a game. The win got the Nets back to .500 for the first time since they were 6-6 after a Nov. 9 win over the Denver Nuggets.

Dinwiddie ended up with 33 points — 18 in the fourth quarter and seven in overtime — to go with 10 assists. It was his first double-double since Dec. 26, when he had 37 points and 11 dimes in an overtime win over the Charlotte Hornets.

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That was the game before the marked downturn began. With a full-court run to the rim and a barrage of late-game 3-pointers, Spencer Dinwiddie marked the end of that downturn.