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Brooklyn Nets vs. Atlanta Hawks game preview: Nets look to get even in the ATL

The Nets are back after their longest layoff of the season’s first half of the season.

Atlanta Hawks v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Fluharty/Getty Images

A good time before some time off. The Brooklyn Nets hosted the Orlando Magic at Barclays Center on Saturday night. Orlando was vying for their franchise record tenth consecutive victory. Their dream was denied as the Nets stopped their win streak and won going away. December got off to a great start for the team after a pretty decent October and November.

The opponent tonight is looking to bounce back. The Atlanta Hawks hit the road to face their old nemesis, the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night. It was a high scoring affair, but the Bucks pulled away late to win.

Where to follow the game

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

Injuries

No Ben Simmons. Dorian Finney-Smith ought to be back tonight after missing Saturday’s game. But Lonnie Walker IV is dealing with a left hamstring strain and that promises to keep him out for at least the next week and change. It’s game 20 and the Nets have yet to have a clean injury report.

Jalen Johnson is out for a while due to a left distal radial fracture. Kobe Bufkin is out due to a left thumb fracture. Mouhamed Gueye is out due to a right lower back stress fracture.

The game

Atlanta won the first meeting.

For the Nets, the strategy might be to attack the basket early and often. As Hassan Ladiwala of Peachtree Hoops noted:

Some of the most scandalizing numbers when it comes to Atlanta’s 26th ranked defense is the fact that they rank dead last in defensive locational eFG%*, in large part due to the fact that they are conceding shots at the rim at the third-highest rate in the league and corner three-pointers at the highest rate in the league, per cleaningtheglass. The Hawks join the Wizards, Hornets, and Bulls (far from elite company) as the only teams to rank in the bottom-10 in both of these categories, and they are in fact the only team to rank in the bottom-5 in both categories.

Eek.

This one’s gonna be fast and filled with buckets galore. The Hawks are:

  • 3rd in pace
  • 4th in offensive efficiency
  • 26th in defensive efficiency

Hope everyone’s ready to run. A game like this is up Spencer Dinwiddie’s alley and the last time he saw ATL, he set season highs in assists (12) and field goal attempts (23).

Without Jalen Johnson, the Hawks will have to rely more on the wing duo of De’Andre Hunter and Saadiq Bey. It’s been a bit of a hit or miss season for Hunter and he missed some time with a finger injury, but he’s back now.

The center matchup should be fun. Nic Claxton has continued to impress and has been a two way force for this Nets ballclub. Claxton’s presence at the rim and when the Nets get on the break makes things easier for his teammates and presents new opportunities for them to work with. The Hawks’ duo of Onyeka Okongwu and Clint Capela will battle with Claxton on the inside and hopefully push him into foul trouble.

Player to watch: Trae Young

It takes time to shake certain narratives. The narrative around Young in particular is that he’s a defensive sieve and someone you can hunt over and over on that side of that ball. Sure he’s not Gary Payton, but he’s working hard.

But ultimately, we’re here for Young’s offensive excellence. Over his last seven games, Young is averaging 32.9 points and ten assists per game on .472/.423/.796 shooting splits. We know how dynamic he is from deep, but he’s been making a killing in the painted area. He’s shooting 52 percent in the paint (restricted area and otherwise) during that span. And when you’re a player like him, you get to the line a bunch. On the season, Trae is getting to the free throw line nine times a night, third behind only Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokuonmpo. Pretty, pretty good! For Brooklyn, they’ve got to maintain their discipline and hope they’re not on the receiving end of a rough whistle

My, my, my.

How do you follow up a 42-point masterclass? That’s the question Mikal Bridges will have to answer tonight for the Nets. Fortunately for him, he’ll get to face the team he dropped 45 points on two weeks ago! Of Bridges’ 20 field goal attempts vs. the Magic, eight were at the rim. He added to that by getting to the foul line a season high 18 times. When you’re able to make things happen from all three levels of the court, you go from great to unstoppable. With the schedule picking up for the Nets starting next week, a win here would give them some extra juice as they face the various challenges coming their way.

From the Vault

On December 2, The Diary of Alicia Keys celebrated its 20th anniversary. Now’s a good time to pull up one of the smoothest interludes of all time!

More reading: Peachtree Hoops, SB Nation NBA, Nets Republic, Soaring Down South