Preview: Brooklyn Nets hope to close out season series against Atlanta Hawks with a victory

The Nets (15-26) travel to Atlanta hope to wrap up their regular season series against the Hawks (11-30) with a win.

Brooklyn is 2-1 against Atlanta this season and it is looking to end its current three-game slide. The Nets have had a grueling schedule so far as their past 11 games have been against teams that are .500 are better. Facing the Hawks, the East’s worst team, gives Kenny Atkinson’s team a chance to build confidence – something that’s been low in supply after two heartbreaking losses against the Celtics and Raptors. Atlanta won’t make it easy though.

Despite the team’s poor record, head coach Mike Budenholzer has kept the Hawks competitive despite the obvious talent deficiencies on the roster. The hosts are coming off of a surprising 110-97 upset over the Nuggets in Denver – Budenholzer’s 200th win. The Nets can’t overlook the Hawks or the team’s losing streak could extend to four games.

Key Matchup: Spencer Dinwiddie vs. Dennis Schroder

Schroder has averaged 20 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds against the Nets, but he hasn’t shot well – hitting just 39 percent from the floor and a woeful 14 percent on three pointers. Still, the German point guard is high-volume streaky shooter so Brooklyn has to focus on frustrating him early. If he gets going early, as he did in the Hawks’ victory over the Nets on Dec. 2, he can be difficult to stop.

On the other end, Dinwiddie has been solid against the Hawks. He’s averaging 11 points, 6.7 assists and 4.7 rebounds while shooting an impressive 41 percent from behind the arc. He’s also had a hand in keeping Schroder honest through the series. Brooklyn will need more of the same from Dinwiddie on Friday night.

Will Allen Crabbe Build on His Recent Form?

Crabbe is finally starting to show the shooting touch that made him a target of the Nets for the past two offseasons prior to his arrival this season. The guard is shooting an impressive 46 percent from behind the arc in his past five games and is averaging almost 15 points a game in that period.

Crabbe acknowledged being in a shooting slump during the first three months of the season, but he maintained a positive attitude and worked hard to improve the other aspects of his game – defense and rebounding. He’s quietly done a good job with both as he’s arguably the team’s second-best perimeter defender after DeMarre Carroll and is averaging 6.2 boards in 2018 so far.

Can Brooklyn’s Bench Get Back to its Best?

Caris LeVert hasn’t looked the same in his two games back from a groin injury -- averaging just 8.5 points and shooting 33 percent. The second-year guard has been pivotal for the Nets off the bench as he’s been the difference in several key wins this season. Yet, he’s not the only second unit player who has been struggling.

Despite a steady increase in minutes, Jahlil Okafor hasn’t found his rhythm yet. Aside from the center’s promising game against the Celtics – dropping 12 points and five rebounds – he’s struggled in his four appearances so far. Okafor is averaging just 4.0 points and 3.0 rebounds on 33 percent shooting in about 13 minutes. As Atkinson has maintained, he needs to earn more minutes with his play. He has a big opportunity against the Hawks to prove himself.

Projected Starters: Dinwiddie, Crabbe, Carroll, Hollis-Jefferson, Zeller

Injury Report: DeMarre Carroll (right knee sprain) is QUESTIONABLE. D'Angelo Russell (left knee surgery) and Isaiah Whitehead (NBA G League assignment) are OUT.