Optimism due to Jeremy Lin returning from his injury is one thing, but the Brooklyn Nets need to start winning basketball. They have a pretty good opportunity against the sliding Los Angeles Lakers.
The Nets are coming off a tough 4-point loss in Houston, which showcased Lin for 20 minutes, including crunch time, his first game in over a month. Lin wasn’t happy with the way he shot the ball, but he finished with 10 points and 7 assists (sorry for the mistake last time), and didn’t look rusty when it came to his decision making, mobility and speed. As for his shot, he did make 50% of his field goal attempts, but if he was complaining about how it felt to shoot the ball, who are we to say we didn’t see any rust?
In the lineup or not, I assume Lin is going to get more minutes this time for both the offensive and defensive tasks, although I’m sure Atkinson would love to be very slow with how he’s bringing Lin back into action. But Lin is hungry, and it seems like the Nets didn’t bring him back at 90% and thrust him into a game. They waited until they were sure the injury is behind him, as sure as they could be at least. As we mentioned about a million times – hamstring injuries are a tricky thing.
What to expect from Lin? Aggression, speed and points. I don’t know if Atkinson is coming around about running more pick and roll plays, and this may be the final game in which Isaiah Whitehead gets substantial floor time, but if there’s a team the Nets can shred defensively, it’s the Lakers. They’re playing bad basketball right now, Julius Randle isn’t 100% and he’s a very important player, and as entertaining as they might be on offense, they don’t have a big man as good as Brook Lopez or a backcourt general as good as Lin. Obviously, some games come down to a shot dropping or not, but if Lin gets 25-30 minutes in this game, not coming away with a win is going to be a massive disappointment.
As for the matchup between the Nets and the Lakers, Brooklyn are getting the Lakers following 7 consecutive losses. We’ve talked a lot about the poor defensive numbers the Nets have been putting up, but there’s not much difference between the two teams. The Nets are 29th in defensive rating, giving up 112.2 points per 100 possessions; the Lakers are 28th, with 112. Both teams play a high-possession number game. Jeremy Lin immediately improves the Nets on both ends of the floor, so it’ll be interesting to see how much time Atkinson gives him in his second game back from the hamstring injury, with a day off in between.
For the finale, here’s Atkinson talking about Lin’s return after the game in Houston. What to make of it? I don’t read between the lines very well, especially not when it comes to Atkinson.