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Russell leads Nets to fourth straight win with a 123-94 blowout over Kings

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NBA: Sacramento Kings at Brooklyn Nets Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — “I feel the momentum building with the fans,” Kenny Atkinson said before the game. “I hear them... We want to turn this place into the place to be.”

And that’s what it’s becoming.

In front of a packed Barclays Center, the Brooklyn Nets (25-23) won their fourth straight game — sixth straight at home — with a 124-93 blowout victory over the Sacramento Kings (24-23). The Nets are three wins away from matching last year’s total and are 17-5 in the last 22 games ... since the end of their eight-game losing streak in early December.

That’s the best 22-game stretch since 2014. They remain the hottest team in the NBA, and it’s all behind the lead of D’Angelo Russell.

Russell scored 31 points, dished out eight assists and grabbed four rebounds. He did not turn the ball over. He nailed seven three-pointers — his third game in the last four with six or more three-pointers and his ninth game in the last 11 with 20+ points. He also became the first Nets player since Deron Williams in 2013 to nail 30+ points in consecutive games.

“It’s off the court... He’s coming in, getting treatment, getting in the extra work,” said DeMarre Carroll. “The things that y’all don’t see, to me, that’s the biggest factor in his changed game. We always knew he had talent, now he’s doing the little things off the court.”

And, his big night came less than an hour after he was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week.

Kenny Atkinson called his pull-up three’s reminiscent of another lefty.

“Those pull-up threes are something. Those are (James) Harden-esque. They switch and he gets in a couple moves, couple dribbles, and punishes the switch with the pull up three.”

When asked about the comments, Russell replied with, “Wow.”

The big breakthrough came in the third quarter when Russell and the Nets went on a 14-2 run to take an 11-point lead. Russell scored and/or assisted on all 14 points.

The Nets went onto out-score the Kings, 38-25, in the third quarter, taking an eight-point lead into the fourth. From there, they never looked back. They were basically toying —yes toying — with the Kings.

It wasn’t just DLo, though.

Joe Harris (19 points, eight rebounds) and Rodions Kurucs (16 points) helped with the scoring load; Jarrett Allen (12 rebounds) and Ed Davis (16 rebounds) handled the glass; Treveon Graham, Shabazz Napier and DeMarre Carroll took care of the scrappy stuff.

How good was the defense? The Nets held the Kings to nine points in the fourth (!) and 94 points, 20 less than their per-game average. Rising star Buddy Hield who scored 11 in the first half was held scoreless in the second half, being guarded by the 6’5”, 241-pound Graham.

That’s the forte of this team: They have depth and they know their roles. They aren’t filled with a bunch of All-Stars, rather a group full of guys that simply like playing with one another.

You can’t teach that.

Listen to post-game audio here.

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PLAYOFF RACE

The Brooklyn Nets entered Monday afternoon’s game with a 12 game lead over the Miami Heat for the six seed. They have a three-game cushion over the nine-seed Pistons.

By game’s end, they were a game ahead of the Heat and distancing themselves from the lottery, up 3 12 games over the disappearing Detroiters.

D’ANGELO RUSSELL NAMED EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Prior to the game, D’Angelo Russell was named Eastern Conference Player of the Month — the first of his career. Russell led Brooklyn to a 3-0 record on the week, registering averages of 28.0 points (53.2 percent from the field and 53.1 percent from 3-point range), 3.3 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 1.0 steals in 32.7 minutes per game.

Russell is the 24th player in Nets history to win the award and is the first since Brook Lopez was named Player of the Week on Jan. 3, 2016.

“I wanna keep going,” said Russell. “It’s something you can take time and appreciate right now as Player of the Week, but I think we got bigger goals in mind as far as the next game, putting that as our main priority and take advantage of it.”

SHOUTOUT TO THE FANS

In his post-game interview with Michael Grady, DLo gave a shoutout to the Nets fans who braved the cold to cheer on the home team.

MLK DAY - “The voice I have, I owe it to him.”

NETS RANKED #11 IN THE CROSSOVER’S LATEST POWER RANKINGS

“Get familiar now, because this team will be in the postseason.”

DINWIDDIE’S KICKS

For a different perspective and a whole lot of lamentations, head over to Sactown Royalty, our Kings sister site on SB Nation.

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The Nets will face the Orlando Magic at Barclays Center on Wednesday, 7:30pm ET.