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The big games keep coming: Nets fly to Atlanta for encounter with Hawks

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NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Brooklyn Nets Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets are rolling right now with two straight, relatively easy wins against bad teams. Just what to doctor ordered to get this squad back on track after an uncharacteristically rough stretch of losses. I mean, losing happens, sure, but the Nets looked listless for about a week when we’ve grown so used to them being so high energy that they’re having a dance party on the bench. Those Nets are back in full force as they get set to head down to Atlanta and play a similarly energetic and resurgent Hawks team. It begins a brutal stretch in which Brooklyn will play eight of their next nine on the road.

The Nets have posted a pair of double-digit victories over the Hawks at Barclays Center this season, topping the Hawks 144-127 on December 16 and 116-100 on January 9.

Atlanta is 22-44 and 4-6 in their last 10 and while that might not sound amazing, for a team that was expected to tank and have on of the worst records in the league, their young talent has proven to be just a little too good for that. Currently the Knicks, Cavs, Bulls, and Suns all have worse records. The Nets should win this game, but it might not come very easily. The Hawks know how to put up a fight. Let’s get into it.

Where To Follow The Game

YES and WFAN at 7pm, ET

Injuries

Dewayne Dedmon (right knee), Miles Plumlee (left knee), and Alex Poythress (ankle) are day to day, and Omari Spellman (ankle) is out. Dedmon and Plumlee should just combine to make two healthy knees, why have they not thought of this yet?

For the Nets, Shabazz Napier (personal) and Treveon Graham (back soreness) are out. Dzanan Musa is on assignment with Long Island, who won their eighth straight game Friday. Tahjere McCall, who was called up for a 10-day, is back in Long Island,

The Game

Trae Young was scorching hot for a while until he wasn’t. During a recent five-game stretch, the rookie averaged 34.8 points, 10.4(!) assists, and shot 47/48/91(!!). He was absolutely on fire. Young is still a streaky player at this very early stage of his career, and over his last two games he is shooting 39% from the field and literally 9% from three. He can shoot the Hawks into or out of games, and the two teams who have held him to those numbers, Miami and San Antonio, are two teams led by veteran coaches who know how to plan for a point guard. Against Brooklyn this season, Young has put up 13 and 17 points, not amazing. Kenny and the defense have been able to keep him quiet, and it’ll be important to keep that trend going for this game.

We saw something close to a full-strength Big Three against the Cavs with D’Angelo Russell scoring 25, Spencer Dinwiddie scoring 28, and Caris LeVert with 14 points and a couple of really clutch shots at the end of the game. A combined 67 points for the Nets three best players is awesome, and against this Hawks team who are still quite young and employ a couple of below average defenders in the backcourt like Trae Young and Kevin Huerter and as a team have the third worse Defensive Rating in the league at 112.7, another large output from the backcourt would be great.

Speaking of Huerter, he is just one of a slew of Atlanta Wings, in addition to DeAndre Bembry, Kent Bazemore, Vince Carter, Taurean Prince, and Justin Anderson. A lot of guys, few standouts. Though I think Huerter might have a chance to be the next Joe Harris if he puts the work in. He’s shooting 38% from three on 4.6 attempts per game as a 20 year old rookie on a team that isn’t totally terrible. When Joe Harris was 20 he was scoring 11.3 points per game as a sophomore at Virginia. Huerter is getting a head start on his three point specialist education, is what I’m saying.

The Jarrett Allen vs. John Collins battle is always a favorite of mine just because there are so many parallels between the two. John Collins is like Jarrett Allen with an ego. He’s a better scorer and shooter, but Jarrett has the edge when it comes to defense and the two rebound at basically the same exact rate. Collins is great for the Hawks, and he’d fit on basically any team in the league. Jarrett is great for the Nets, and he’d fit on basically any team in the league. They’d also be pretty good together! Collins mostly plays the four and can stretch out the floor, shooting 37% from three this season.

If the Hawks are exceptionally good at anything, it’s making threes. Their 12.7 a game ranks 5th in the league, just one spot ahead of the Nets 12.5 so we can expect this one to be a shootout. Trae Young, Huerter, Taurean Prince, Vince Carter, Kent Bazemore, and Dewayne Dedmon all average over one made three a game. The Nets who also pass that criteria are D’Angelo Russell, Joe Harris, Allen Crabbe, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeMarre Carroll, Caris LeVert, and Shabazz Napier. Both of these teams just absolutely let it fly.

Player To Watch

This will almost certainly be Vince Carter’s last game against the Nets, unless he somehow comes back for his age-42 season next year (which he did hint at Friday!) In his last 10 games he’s averaging 20.9 minutes and 10.3 points on 50% shooting from the floor and 51% shooting from three. Incredible. He isn’t getting the farewell tour Dirk or Dwayne Wade are, but Vince is a singularly important player in basketball history and it will be cool to see him out on the floor for the rest of this season guiding this young Hawks team towards a better future. He can also knock down a three and play smart but not physically imposing defense. Vince is still sneaky good.

Playoff Watch

The Nets go no help Friday night as the Magic, Hornets and Heat all won close games. The Nets now sit in seventh, a half game behind the Pistons, who they play at Barclays on Monday night. They’re two games ahead of the Heat, who are no in eighth and three games ahead of the Magic —four with the tiebreaker— who are in ninth.

Going into the hellscape of their remaining schedule, the Nets are a game above .500. The Heat, who’ve won four straight, are three games under .500. The Magic and Hornets are five games under.

From The Vault

Joe Harris will almost assuredly set the Nets three-point shooting record. As for Friday, Harris was shooting 47.1 percent. The record is held by Drazen Petrovic, 44.9 percent, in 1992-93, just before he died.

Have good weekends everybody.

Enjoy.