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Nets begin road trip in Atlanta

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Atlanta Hawks v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

It was close, then it turned to a boat race. The Miami Heat were in a tight one against the Brooklyn Nets on Monday, but Brooklyn turned on the afterburners late and came away with a double digit victory. It was the Nets second straight W as they wrapped up their two game set with the reigning Eastern Conference Champions.

The opponent tonight will be the Atlanta Hawks. Things haven’t been going so well since they were in Brooklyn last month, but all is not lost for Lloyd Pierce’s squad. They beat the undermanned Los Angeles Clippers last night and have won four out of their last five games.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Tip off after 7:30.

Injuries

Nicolas Claxton and Spencer Dinwiddie are out.

Bogdan Bogdanovic is out for the season after suffering an avulsion fracture in his right knee. Kris Dunn is out after undergoing ankle surgery in late December. Cam Reddish didn’t play last night due to an Achilles injury. No word on his availability for tonight.

The game

Brooklyn took Game 1 while Atlanta got Game 2.

We’ve been thinking a lot about loss recently, and I came across this great story from Rashad Milligan about Dominique Wilkins. This part really stood out to me:

For the generation of Atlantans born after Wilkins’ last game with the Hawks in 1994, Wilkins might just represent the name on the back of a popular Hawks’ Pac-Man jersey. To others, he might represent the statue in front of State Farm Arena. For some, he might even just be the guy alongside Bob Rathbun who makes them laugh whenever he calls out an opposing player’s bricked shot attempt or every time he says “heat check” during a broadcast. In the same vein, it’s how that same generation might have known Aaron as the guy who passed Babe Ruth, the man with the statue, another guy with a street named after him near Georgia State Stadium or just the most famous dude who lives off Cascade Road.

It can be easy to take greatness for granted when it’s so accessible. It’s easy to sit back and say, “Oh, that’s what LeBron’s supposed to do,” when you’ve watched LeBron James play on national television since 2002. It can be easy to take Aaron for granted because he threw out the first or final pitch at so many Braves games.

In the midst of the social media and microwave generation, it can be easy to skip a moment to stop and appreciate some of the city’s athletic icons like Chipper Jones, the Braves’ pitching big three, Ilya Kovalchuk, Angel McCoughtry, and even the superstars with shorter tenures like Michael Vick and Deion Sanders. If there’s any silver lining in the loss of a beloved monumental figure, it might be the reality check to ask another legend how they would like to be remembered while you still can.

Tell your people you love ‘em while they’re still here.

The Nets have had their issues with big guys and rebounding, so naturally, they’ll be battling with the best rebounder in the league this year. Clint Capela grabbed double digit rebounds in both meetings in Brooklyn and is a good bet to control the boards again. For the trio of DeAndre Jordan, Reggie Perry, and Jeff Green, they’ll have

He’s still getting comfortable on the team, but the end of Monday’s game should be encouraging for James Harden. He was all the way locked in and helped bring the W home as his 10 fourth quarter points helped pace the Nets attack. Harden’s great play came at the perfect time since Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving’s shots weren’t really there on Monday. It looks like Harden has been developing a nice little rhythm with Perry in the second units and I’d like to see Perry paired up with Harden as much as possible. Harden is one of the best shot creators and distributors in basketball and for a rookie like Perry, he needs as many minutes as possible so he can learn and grow. Might as well do it with a former MVP on the court, right?

It’s not often a 20 point, 13 rebound, and five assist game can be classified as a C+ game at best, but when you’ve been as excellent as Kevin Durant has been, then yeah, C+ it is. KD’s shot wasn’t there on Monday, but he was able to do everything else that needs to be done to win. It’s unlikely he struggles from the field two games in a row, so look for him to make a statement early tonight.

Player to watch: Trae Young

By now, third year, All Star caliber players like Young face pressure to guide their teams into the playoffs and take that next step. Young hasn’t faced that pressure yet, but he is starting to come under greater scrutiny. When I first saw the headline to this Brad Botkin story at CBS Sports, I was taken aback. However, as I read it more, it started to make sense. This part in particular:

Tell me, in what world has Young, a 33-percent career 3-point shooter, earned the right to take three times as many 30-34 footers as the greatest shooter in history took during the greatest shooting season in history? The bottom line is Young shot 32 percent from 3 in his rookie season. He shot 36 percent last season, the same mark he tallied in his lone college campaign. He has never been a great shooter. He’s just taken a lot of shots you would assume only a great shooter would take, and a false correlation was drawn.

The best part of Young’s game is his passing/playmaking. Even the Hawks acknowledged that when they drafted him, and it’s proven true. He’s phenomenal in a lot of offensive areas. He has an almost genius feel for his surroundings and he gets into the lane with uncanny ease. He has an array of floaters. And he’s not a bad shooter; he’s just not close to a great one. Still, he has the potential to score 30 points a game in the NBA at some point. None of this is to suggest he’s not a tremendous talent.

I mean, he’s not necessarily wrong. For his career, Young is around a 34 percent three point shooter while taking close to 41 percent of his shots from deep. I was talking about it with a friend on Twitter recently, but it feels like Young is one of those players who would benefit from taking more 16 to 18 foot jumpers than threes. He’s most effective in those areas and at the very least, he’d get more bang for his buck instead of pulling up from way downtown.

Anybody else slightly concerned by this?

It’s just not me, right? Ok. Steve Nash was asked about incorporating backup guards like Tyler Johnson into the rotation, and he noted that there’s essentially a log jam in the backcourt. He’s right, but I do wonder if he’ll find a chance to reduce the minutes for the Big Three at some point. Irving has been excellent all season, and he caused Young a lot of trouble in the first meeting between the teams. It’s a different dynamic for the Hawks in defending Brooklyn this time and with Harden settling more into the playmaker role, look for Irving to be aggressive in finding his shot against Young and the Hawks.

From the Vault

Happy belated birthday, Vince Carter

Rest in peace to Sekou Smith

and rest in peace Kobe and Gigi Bryant

More reading: Peachtree Hoops