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Nets vow to “compete’ against Hawks after Pistons debacle

ATLANTA — The only thing the Nets can do with Wednesday’s embarrassing loss to Detroit is flush it and forget it, move on to Friday’s game with the Hawks.

And nobody is more anxious to move forward than Caris LeVert, coming off a rare bad performance and clearly not back in sync after a weeklong injury layoff.

“They were the more physical team from the start,” LeVert said of the Pistons. “We didn’t match their physicality and their energy. They blew up a lot of our actions, denied a lot of our reversal passes, things like that.

“We’ve just got to erase it from our minds, and compete in Atlanta.”

The Nets didn’t do a lot of competing against Detroit, falling behind by 40 and eventually losing 114-80. Now they find themselves in a three-game losing skid headed to play the Hawks, with coach Kenny Atkinson preaching to his team that they have to compete better.

“The message is we’ve got to go to Atlanta and get this one back,” Atkinson said. “The message to the guys was we have to get this back, get it back in Atlanta, come back and [take advantage of] another opportunity to compete.”

One of the few positives going into Friday’s game is that Allen Crabbe is finally showing signs of life. The Nets’ highest-paid player and most accomplished shooter had been mired in a lengthy slump, but has shown signs of breaking out.

Crabbe has averaged 14.6 points and 6.2 rebounds this month on 45.7 percent shooting from deep (16-of-35). And he scored a team-high 20 points against the Pistons on 7-of-11 shooting, and 5-of-9 from behind the arc.

It wasn’t enough to keep them from getting blown out.

“You just have to erase it out of your mind. It was embarrassing. To lose by 30 at home, that sucks,” Crabbe said. “[But] it’s a new day tomorrow. That’s the beauty about this league. You have games every other day, so you just go back, look at film. Look at what we could’ve done differently.”

The Nets will have to do a number of things differently against the Hawks. They’ll have to avoid getting bludgeoned inside. They also will have to get LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie back on track, the latter coming off a two-point, 1-of-5 shooting performance.

“Just kind of gotta flush it, really,” said Dinwiddie, whose off night could be just an isolated hiccup. But LeVert is out of sync after missing a week with a groin injury.

The second-year guard had just five points on 2-of-13 shooting in his return Monday in the overtime loss to the Raptors. And while he did muster 12 points on 5-of-8 from the floor two days later, he committed six turnovers, a career-worst.

“I feel like I’m back to my normal self,” LeVert insisted. “It’s not really about me though. We didn’t compete [Wednesday] as a team.”

Well, the second part is clearly true: They didn’t compete as a team. But LeVert isn’t in rhythm like he was before getting hurt. He scored in double-figures in a career-high nine straight games from Dec. 17 through New Year’s Day, averaging 15.7 points, 5.6 assists and 4.2 rebounds. He shot 51.5 percent from the floor and a scalding 55.6 percent from behind the arc.

And his playmaking had taken a huge leap forward, averaging 8.3 assists to go with 16.3 points in his last four games before getting hurt. Atkinson acknowledged it will take some time to get that back.

“Listen, I think it’s a challenge for a young player to be out seven days and then come back and find his rhythm,” Atkinson said. “That’s not an excuse for him, he’s been playing really good ball lately. But it takes the younger guys a little bit more time to catch their rhythm after being out. He’ll get back on track.”

DeMarre Carroll (knee) is questionable for Friday’s game.


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