BROOKLYN -- Fresh off of a winning road trip, the Nets (8-13) are back at Barclays Center hoping to build on the positives when they host the struggling Hawks (4-17).
Saturday’s game is part of a home and away series against Atlanta, a team that Brooklyn beat 116-104 at home after withstanding a late rally. The Nets have a chance to build off their victory against the Mavericks on Wednesday and win consecutive games for the first time since late October. The home side will be boosted by the probable return of Allen Crabbe and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, with both players being sidelined for multiple games due to injuries. Coach Kenny Atkinson plans to be cautious with the duo in Saturday’s matchup. “I think Allen and Rondae, they aren’t going to just jump in and play 40 minutes,” he explained. “I’m not saying its five minutes, they’ll get decent minutes, but probably not their full allotment.”Still, with the likely return of two key members of the roster, Nets players know they can’t let an opportunity slip out of their hands against the Hawks – losers of their last two games. “It’s very important [to build momentum],” Trevor Booker said at his Breakfast Assist event on Friday. “They [the Hawks] don’t have the best record in the NBA, but we know that they are going to play hard. If we don’t come out ready, they can beat us.” Here’s the Key Things to Look Out for In Saturday’s Clash: Nets can’t afford to be complacent against HawksOn paper, Brooklyn should be favorites against an Atlanta team that has undergone major changes since its 60-22 record back in the 2014-15 season. However, games aren’t won on paper and the Hawks can still pose a threat due to their work ethic instilled by Mike Budenholzer – Atkinson’s former boss and mentor. While Atlanta has lost a lot of stars due to free agency or trades, they still have an exciting young point guard in Dennis Schroder, who leads the team in points (20.1) and assists (6.7) per game. The team also has three other players who can be factors offensively with the right match ups in Taurean Prince, Kent Bazemore, Marco Belinelli. Although the team has only two of its last 10 games, teams have been caught off guard, including the Knicks during that span.
Key matchup: DeMarre Carroll vs. PrinceCarroll is on fire lately, scoring 20 points in consecutive games for the first time in over two years. He faces a unique challenge in 2016 first rounder Prince. The former Baylor star was drafted by the Hawks to likely replace the huge void left by none other than Carroll after he bolted to the Toronto Raptors in free agency back in 2015. Both players are known as three and D players who like to hustle, though Carroll has recently proven more versatile on offense than anticipated. Prince is still a work in progress, but he’s made some strides so far in his sophomore campaign as he’s shooting over 42 percent from behind the arc after just sitting 32 percent in his rookie year. He’s also doubled his rebound and steals averages as he’s secured a starting role. Carroll’s experience could be the edge in this one. Shoutout to the A
Atkinson and Carroll both made their names in the NBA during their time in Atlanta and there’s still emotional ties to the organization.
“It changed my coaching life. I learned a ton about culture, a ton about basketball in general. Bud was a great mentor,” Atkinson said. He added, “It really prepared me for this job. We do a lot of the same things as Atlanta. I copied…stole a lot of things, so that’s the biggest complement.” Atkinson remains in touch with Budenholzer, although being opposing coaches makes things complicated. “I text him…it’s hard when you compete. It’s not easy, but we’re very close as colleagues.”Injuries: Allen Crabbe (sore lower back) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (sprained right ankle) are probable. D’Angelo Russell ia out (left knee surgery).Projected Lineup: Dinwiddie, Allen, Carroll, Booker, Zeller