Jeremy Lin shhh

If anyone, including Kenny Atkinson, needed a reminder of just how important Jeremy Lin is to the Brooklyn Nets, his fourth quarter performance in the shocking win over the Memphis Grizzlies served as a very fun reminder. The worst team in the NBA beat a sleeper contender 122-109, in the FedEx Forum of all places.

Jeremy Lin: Lin played only 24 minutes, but finished with 18 points for the second straight game, 11 of them coming in the fourth quarter, as the Nets broke away from the Grizzlies in a close game. He’s averaging 12.7 points while shooting 47.2% from the field and 52.2% from beyond the arc since coming back in February after missing nearly two months of basketball in addition to the six weeks out earlier in the season. Not impressive? When you adjust it to per 36 minutes (he’s averaging less than 19 minutes per game since coming back), it’s 24.7 points. That’s a lot more impressive, especially for someone who is shedding off a lot of rust.

While you can see the rust in Lin’s defense (he’s picking up a lot more fouls than he should with 5 this time), his offense, when Atkinson abandons the useless motion offense (with his current crop of players) and gives his best player control of events, is way ahead of where it should be. His inconsistent shooting from last season seems to be a thing buried deep in the past. He’s aggressive, focused, and as always, fantastic with the game on the line and the ball in his hands. Atkinson might be inlove with an offensive scheme that moves the ball through everyone, but all offenses are useless without someone who knows what to do with the ball; who knows how to control pace, when to step on the pedal and how to actually be a floor general. 

The rest of the Nets: Six Nets players finished in double figures, led by Sean Kilpatrick, who like in the short moments he had early in the season, looks very good when he has Lin next to him. He finished with 23 points, while Isaiah Whitehead poured a shocking 15. Both Caris LeVert and Randy Foye finished with 14 and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 12, doing well as the ‘4’ in the Nets lineup. Trevor Booker helped the Nets win the rebounding battle (50-43) with 9 boards and 8 points.

This was a rare game in which the Nets guards set the tone and delivered almost all of the offensive output. While the Nets have invested heavily in Lopez over the years, the team’s game changers are in the backcourt. Lin is their best player, absent from too many games due to injuries. Atkinson misusing him has nothing to do with their poor record; this is a bad team. But now that he’s healthy, there’s no reason to ignore something that clearly works, while sticking to a routine that doesn’t fit the talent (or lack of it) on this team.

Up Next: Another road game, this time a bit closer to home, facing the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks are coming off 3 straight losses, with Dennis Schroder, a talented but easily frustrated point guard, having some issues with his coach and teammates, something that shouldn’t be surprising. With Lin getting more minutes (a bit more, nothing too drastic) and Atkinson hopefully closer to understanding what works best for this team, maybe an “on the paper” tough road game shouldn’t be treated as an automatic loss. The win over Memphis certainly shows it.

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