NEW YORK -- Rondae Hollis-Jefferson hustled early, Thaddeus Young hustled late, and the Brooklyn Nets got back to playing gritty basketball at Barclays Center, just two nights after being blown out in Boston.
Hollis-Jefferson, the rookie standout, galvanized his team in the first quarter with four steals, an emphatic block of David Lee and a putback dunk. He finished with nine points, seven rebounds, five steals and four assists in 31 minutes.
“It’s something I gotta do every night because I’m the energy guy,” Hollis-Jefferson said.
As for his highlight-reel rejection of Lee, Hollis-Jefferson said: “I don’t know. It was just like relaxing my muscles and jumping and I flew. I felt it. I’m like, ‘Wow! I’m high!’ Inside, that was a big thing for me because I like blocking shots, so I was like, ‘Yeah!’”
Young dove for a loose ball in the fourth quarter and also took a huge charge in the final period.
“I was just trying to get my teammates extra possessions and help my team win,” said Young, who added 10 points and 12 rebounds. “I was just trying to play as hard as I could.”
Nets coach Lionel Hollins, whose team rebounded from a 120-95 loss in which it surrendered 43 points to the Celtics in the second quarter, was appreciative of RHJ’s and Young’s efforts.
“Hustle plays really define your team,” Hollins said. “You can talk about, ‘This guy scores all these points and this guy gets all these rebounds,’ but it’s about who makes the plays that are needed to be made to help you win the game.”
All the talk going into Friday night’s matchup between the two teams was about how the Nets (3-11) have to surrender their unprotected 2016 first-round pick to the Celtics. And their uninspired play on the court hours later didn’t help matters. But on Sunday night, the Nets looked engaged defensively.
They built a 22-point lead and almost blew it at the end before Jarrett Jack (13 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter) made several tough shots down the stretch to keep Boston at bay. Brook Lopez added 23 points and 10 rebounds, while Joe Johnson got hot early and scored 17 of his own.
“I say this every time we lose a tough game: it’s competition,” Hollins said. “You have to come out the next night and play. That’s the only thing you can do. If you can’t do it or you don’t want to do it, then you shouldn’t be in competition. But when you have a bad loss, then you have to go home and look in the mirror and decide to come back, put it behind you and play better.”