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Nets need their shooters to step up in playoff push

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NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Brooklyn Nets Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

The numbers, as Greg Logan notes Friday, are not good. The Nets two three-point specialists — Joe Harris and Allen Crabbe— have gone cold.

In the past seven games, Harris has been held to 10-for-29 shooting from three-point range (34.5 percent), including five games with one made three-pointer, and Crabbe has been held to 11-for-36 shooting from deep (30.6 percent), with four games of one or fewer makes.

In those same seven games, D’Angelo Russell, who leads the team in three pointers made, is shooting 27.5 percent. The Nets offense, so much of which is predicated on perimeter shooting, can’t go on like that if Brooklyn wants to make the playoffs.

“Globally we have not been good offensively since the All-Star break, so we’re going to have to look at it. Our decision-making has got to be a little quicker. We’re passing up shots, quite honestly,” Atkinson said. “Allen Crabbe, I’d love for him to shoot nine 3s [he went 2-for-7 in Wednesday’s 108-96 loss at Oklahoma City]. To beat a team like [the Thunder], you’ve got to let it go when it’s open. They had us on our heels.”

Opponents are well aware of the Nets vulnerabilities. They’re pressuring Harris as well as Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie.

“Other teams are locking into [Harris]. They understand he’s a big part of what we do,” Atkinson said. “We’ve got to find ways to get him more shots, no doubt about it.”

Dinwiddie believes he and DLo must step up, starting with Saturday’s game in Utah and he notes that Harris isn’t the problem. The Nets are also missing DeMarre Carroll, out with a hyperextended knee.

“I wouldn’t pin our struggles on Joe,” Dinwiddie said. “I think it’s a young group trying to find themselves post-All-Star break. We’ve been juggling rotations and recently we’ve kind of stuck with a certain lineup. But we were missing DeMarre.”

Russell says the Nets have to adjust.

“He’s the [freaking] 3-point champion. I hope so. We’ve just got to figure out ways to keep him involved,” Russell said. “When teams are doing stuff like that — forcing us to make quick-hit passes — the green light has got to be green, and force them to respect it. They can’t trap us when guys are making shots.”

There is a bit of irony here. The Nets had been strong offensively and struggled defensively prior to the All-Star Break. Since then, as Brian Lewis notes, the reverse is now true.

Though their offense and defense were both middle-of-the-pack going into the All-Star break, their defense is tops in the NBA since. But that offense? It’s plummeted to second-worst in offensive rating in the entire league (105.2). And a big part of that fall has been their sudden lack of long-range shooting.

There’s no word yet on when Carroll will be back, but for Atkinson, it can’t come quickly enough. The Nets need all their perimeter weapons ... and now.

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The Nets remain sixth in the East. Of the contenders for the last three playoff spots, only the Magic played Thursday night and demolished the Cavaliers. The Magic however remain one and a half games out of the playoff picture, behind the eighth seed Heat.