BROOKLYN, N.Y. — It may be super early in the season, but the Brooklyn Nets have gone over .500 for the first time since November of 2014. We’ll take it after more than 1,000 days of losing.
Coming off a 126-121 win over the Orlando Magic, the Brooklyn Nets won their second consecutive game with a 116-104 victory over the Atlanta Hawks, Sunday afternoon at Barclays Center.
“If you watch them every day in the offseason, how they work and what they put into this… it’s normal,” Atkinson replied when asked about the younger guys buying in. “There’s a trust factor and the coach sees it every day. I do think they’ve bought into our culture. They keep getting better game by game.”
Or as, well, what we like to call them... “The Marksmen.”
It was another big win for “The Marksmen,” the players Sean Marks brought in over the summer:
—D’Angelo Russell finished with 16 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and had the opportunity to point to his veins late in the game, after a dagger to the Hawks heart.
—Allen Crabbe had a huge game, with 20 points, including four (out of seven) three pointers, two late to turn the game around.
—Jarrett Allen, all of 19 years old, showed he can be part of an NBA rotation purely on his defensive skills, blocking four shots in six minutes in the second quarter as the Nets made their first move.
—DeMarre Carroll, given up for nothing by the Raptors, once again showed that reports of his death have been greatly exaggerated. He scored 17 points, going to the line 10 times and providing energy throughout.
And Caris LeVert who Marks drafted in 2016 had his first big game of 2017-18, with 16 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals.
How it happened...
It was a sloppy first half for Brooklyn, but they finished the second quarter with momentum and carried it over into the second half. Atlanta face-guarded D’Angelo Russell all night, which forced him to give up the ball quicker than he’s accustomed to. So, instead, he facilitated and dished out 10 assists on the night.
It was his third game ever with double digit assists.
The Nets led by as many as 16 in the second half, but Atlanta tied things up at 99 apiece late in the fourth quarter. Insert: Russell and Crabbe and suddenly, everything changed. Russell found Crabbe on the perimeter on two consecutive possessions, which put Brooklyn up by seven 3:47 remaining.
Russell then walked down the floor with the Brooklyn crowd standing on its feet, anticipating what would come next. He used a screen and nailed the dagger three-pointer to put the Nets up by 10 with under two minutes remaining. As he turned to head back down court, the 21-year-old points at the veins on left hand and mouthed the words, “ice in my veins.” That’s one “N:OW” and one “ice in my veins.”
Once again, Russell hit the big shot. This is his team.
“I just wanted to make plays for the team,” Russell said. “If that’s me shooting or me facilitating, the ball is in my hand so coaches give me that freedom to make that happen.”
The Nets first asserted themselves in the second quarter when they scored 37 points, behind the offensive prowess of Crabbe and the FOUR blocked shots from Allen. They led by three at half, then built it a 14-point cushion entering the fourth following a 35-point third quarter.
Carroll continues to look like a steal after labeled a “salary dump.” He was the anchor to Brooklyn’s attack, particularly in the third quarter. He finished with 17 points, two steals and two blocked shots plus those 10 trips to the line.
But the $75 million man, Allen Crabbe was Brooklyn’s star of the game, scoring 20 points on 4-of-7 from deep.
The key to the night was containing Denis Schroder, who finished the night 5-of-22 from the field. Schroder left the game with 3:37 in the fourth quarter after turning his ankle.
“I just tried to use my length and make it as tough as I can for him,” Russell said when asked about containing Schroder.
The defense was stellar overall. They nabbed 12 steals, forced 16 turnovers and held Atlanta to 34 percent shooting – the lowest since Kenny Atkinson took over as head coach. It was also the lowest Nets opponent field goal percentage in a game since Detroit shot 33.7% in November of 2015.
“There was no tactical adjustment,” Atkinson said of the defense. “I think it’s our habits improving our attention to detail improving. But listen, I still think we have a long way to go and we put them on the free throw line.”
Again, its early... but damn, it’s fun.