Just let the Brooklyn Nets play the Atlanta Hawks every day, and they’ll win the East. The worst team in the NBA sunk the slumping Hawks even further with a 91-82 win, as Brook Lopez had another strong game on a back-to-back stretch, while Jeremy Lin found his shot after struggling from long range for a bit.
Despite not being a blowout win for the Nets, it was fun watching for most of the game. When Kenny Atkinson puts the ball in Lin’s hands and the offense focuses on getting Lin and Lopez to work together, things look good. Teams have a very difficult time handling this 1-2 punch, and Lin, after some inconsistent games in terms of his offense, looked aggressive from the first moment, finishing with 15 points and shooting 50% from the field, including a couple of 3-pointers. He grabbed 6 rebounds and added 6 assists, most of them as he kept pushing the ball into the paint for Lopez to take advantage against the confused Hawks.
Lopez scored 29 points, making it 59 in a couple of nights. He had an interesting stat line of 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 blocks and 5 turnovers. Besides these two, the Nets found it hard to get anything on offense going, finishing with an overall 39% from the field and turned the ball over 19 times. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored 11 points, while Sean Kilpatrick, who was awful when he was trying to get the ball in the basket (1-for-8 from the field) added 11 rebounds.
And there we have it – the Nets win two in a row for the second time in the last two weeks after going 5 months without doing it a single time. Since the beginning of March, the Nets are 8-9. A lot of it has to do with Lin coming back. Would they have been a .500 team or something around that had he been healthy the entire season? I’m not sure. Probably not. But it certainly shows the kind of impact Lin has on this team, how much Lopez is better with a good point guard feeding him the ball that forces the defense to respect a penetration threat, and how much Atkinson needs to put the ball in those hands, and not stick to a type of offense that doesn’t fit this team.
So how many wins do the Nets end up with? the finish isn’t easy. Four road games out of the next five, including two against Chicago who need the wins, one in Boston, one in Philly and one at home against Orlando. Two very winnable games, three very difficult ones.