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Friday shift call-in: 7/11 combine for 67 points in Nets 120-116 win over Hawks

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Atlanta Hawks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

When you’re 6-1 in a seven-game homestand … Not too shabby.

The Brooklyn Nets secured their 15th victory of the season with a down-to-the-wire 120-116 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. Brooklyn has won nine of their last 12 games and is 14-4 against the Hawks since the 2017-18 season, the best in the league over that timespan.

Kyrie Irving had an exceptional performance to follow up his clutch showing against Charlotte. Irving finished with 33 points and 11 rebounds, only the fourth time in his career that he’s finished with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in a game.

“That’s what we’re talking about,” said Vaughn about Irving’s 11 boards. “No limitation of size. You want to rebound, it’s if you want to rebound.”

Kevin Durant was equally impressive, scoring a game-high 34 points on 14-of-25 shooting. This was KD’s sixth 30-point game of the season.

T.J. Warren was also solid off the bench for the Nets, dropping 14 points in 19 minutes on 6-of-8 shooting. Vaughn mentioned after the game that he would officially be OUT due to injury management against Indiana on Saturday.

“Getting his feet up under him. He’s an efficient player, man: 6-for-8,” said Durant about Warren. “We’re over there on the bench saying, like, ‘Man, he just finds his way to the basketball, to the rim a lot.’ Cuts, he just feels like he’s in the right position on the offensive side of the ball. And then defensively, he’s good at getting into the ball, creating turnovers. So yeah, I mean he looked good tonight.”

Trae Young had a flashy 33-point performance for Atlanta to go with nine assists, and Bogdan Bogdanovic had his first breakout game of the year with 31 points on 12-of-18 shooting off the bench.

Brooklyn had a nice night of playmaking—29 assists on 45 makes. The Nets also outrebounded Atlanta, 39-36, which drew high praise from Jacque Vaughn after the game.

“We out-rebounded somebody today. We gon lead with that. Let’s go! We showed that to the team after,” said Vaughn. “Some big, big possessions and winning plays. And that’s what it boiled down to.”

Unfortunately, the Hawks nearly closed the gap thanks to Brooklyn being turnover-prone throughout the contest. Brooklyn coughed up the rock 21 times on Friday, a season-high. Brooklyn also allowed 62 points in the paint against an Atlanta team that ranks 12th in this category with 51.5 on average.

“You’d rather that than them hitting a lot of threes,” said Ben Simmons about the Hawks’ paint points. “Obviously, with Claxton out, one of our rim protectors, that takes away that. But I think everyone did a good job.”

Ben Simmons didn’t waste time in his return, picking up a pass from Young and taking it coast-to-coast, scoring a layup off a dump-off from KD, and flicking in a hook shot off an offensive board for six quick points. Speaking of Durant, he couldn’t miss from midrange, scoring 18 early points on 9-of-11 shooting, the most he’s put up in a first quarter in 12 years. Unfortunately, the Nets could not stop turning the ball over and ended the quarter with seven turnovers. Even with two of their three stars cooking, Brooklyn’s lack of ball security led to just a 36-30 advantage after one.

The Nets didn’t start off with the requisite intensity on defense to start the second quarter, at one point leaving Bogdan Bogdanovic, one of Atlanta’s most dangerous outside threats, open from three. Atlanta whittled down Brooklyn’s advantage to just two. Then, Kyrie Irving went on an 8-0 run all by himself to build Brooklyn’s lead to 10.

Defensive miscues continued to hurt the Nets. Cutters shook free for looks at the rim, and Brooklyn’s weakside rotations were all over the place. At one point, Day’Ron Sharpe, who got his first bit of non-garbage playing time since late October, was matched up with Young after no one picked up the ball-handler in transition, which quickly led to a bucket at the cup. Brooklyn finished ahead 68-64 at halftime.

Kyrie kept it rolling in the third, dropping in two more threes to give him four on the night. This was quite the welcomed sign; Irving’s shooting just 31.5% from three, by far a career low.

Still, the Nets could not stop turning the ball over, as some bad passes and a dribble propped Brooklyn up to 20 turnovers in three-quarters of play. Even with 50 points from Kyrie and KD, the Nets led just 96-90 to finish the third because of, yes, their continued inability to hold onto the basketball.

Giving up easy looks caught up to them in the fourth. By this point, Bogdan Bogdanovic had a nice rhythm going and scored five points to start the period off. This gave Atlanta its first lead since the 10:30 mark in the first quarter. Things were fairly back-and-forth until Harris had three great plays in a row—a pass after being run off the line that eventually led to a KD catch-and-shoot, an up-and-under layup in transition, and then a huge stop on Bogdanovic.

Durant hit another catch-and-shoot to give the Nets a five-point lead with just over a minute to spare. Though Young gave the Nets a slight scare with a layup high off the glass on the other end, the Nets grabbed two huge rebounds late to seal the victory.

The Film Room

Tonight’s film room is going to be short and sweet. It’s a Friday, after all.

Let’s fast forward to the 3:24 mark in the fourth, a possession that gave the Nets a lead they never looked back on. To start, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant engage in a side pick-and-roll with the right side cleared, which is something the team has been leaning into as of late. Running the two-man game between Brooklyn’s two stars gives KD the mismatch with Trent Forrest.

This forces help from Jalen Johnson, who leaves Joe Harris in the corner while Clint Capela ‘zones up’ and defends in between Royce O’Neale and Joe Harris. O’Neale cuts underneath the rim to put Capela in a precarious situation, and here’s where things get fun.

Durant passes out of the double-team and kicks across the court to Seth, who moves the ball to Joe Harris in the corner. Harris then catches and drives the second he notices Capela closing out to him hard. He does a great job stretching his dribble all the way to the rim, which pulls in the help from Jalen Johnson off of Royce O’Neale in the corner.

With Jalen Johnson rotating over as the low man, Trent Forrest sinks down to help the helper, and so Royce O’Neale kicks back to Kevin Durant, who is now located at the right wing. Durant splashes the catch-and-shoot three-pointer despite a pretty good ‘x-out’ from Jalen Johnson.

“29 assists,” said Durant after the game. “That’s starting to be who we are now. Mid 20’s, 30’s in assists. That’s just our game now, so I expect us to do that. So we continue to move the ball, we’re gonna find good shots, and I think we’re always looking for a better shot. We might have a good one but we kick it to a great one. So we got to keep doing that.”

He’s not wrong. Brooklyn has averaged 31 assists in its last two games. The ball is hopping.

Kevin Durant minutes keep piling up. Will he play Saturday?

Ben Simmons and T.J. Warren will not be on the court Saturday night in Indianapolis, but there’s no definitive word on Kevin Durant’s availability. Jacque Vaughn was again asked about the continuing issue of KD’s minutes. He played 36 vs. Atlanta, bringing his season total to 994, highest in the league. Royce O’Neale is second with 980 minutes.

“The minutes are adding up. We’ll always be smart in terms of short term, long term. I’ll see how they [KD & Royce ] came from this game. If we can get through tomorrow, the schedule’s in our favor to get a little break,” said Vaughn.

The Nets play Saturday (at Indiana), Monday (at Washington) and Friday (at Toronto.)

Durant said post-game that he’s playing tomorrow “as of right now.”

“You gotta talk to Jacque about that,” he added. “I just listen. I try to do everything. They’ve got my best interest at heart, so I just listen to what they say and go with it.”

Of course, minutes aren’t the only thing piling up for KD during the Nets streak…

Yuta Watanabe hoping for return vs. Indiana

Yuta Watanabe has missed ten straight games with a strained hamstring. Post-game, he tweeted out his feelings...

Translation: “We ended our seven-game home streak with six wins, and it was a long three weeks for me personally,” adding a prayer emoji. Jacque Vaughn said that the two-way wing is indeed on track to return in Indiana on Saturday.

As Sponge Bob might say…

What’s next

The Nets head to Indiana on Saturday to play the Pacers for the fourth time this season. The second half of Brooklyn’s back-to-back starts at 7:00 PM EST. Coverage on the YES Network, per usual.

For a different perspective of tonight’s game, head to Peachtree Hoops, our Hawks sister site.