SAN ANTONIO -- As the Brooklyn Nets tip off a two-game road trip against the Spurs on Thursday night, D'Angelo Russell is in prime position to put a bow on a killer January.
Russell is coming off a 30-point, seven-assist night in Tuesday's win over the Bulls. It was his third game this season with at least 30 points, five rebounds, and zero assists -- the most by any player in the NBA.
"He knows I have tremendous confidence in him," said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson. "He's allowing me to coach him. I tell him all the time; with talent comes responsibility. He has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders and is responding fantastically quite honestly, playing great basketball."
Going into this Jan. 31 outing, Russell has scored at least 20 points in 11 of 14 January games, averaging 23.7 points, 7.1 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game, shooting 48.9 percent overall and 42.0 percent from 3-point range.
Russell has set a Nets record with 50 3-pointers made in January, the most any player has made in a single month in franchise history, and that's also the most by any NBA player in January. He's currently ninth in the league with 138 total 3-pointers made this season.
While the Nets are at AT&T Center Thursday, NBA All-Star Game reserves will be announced.
"I hope the other coaches in the league recognize what he's doing," said Atkinson. "I think it's starting to be an extended stretch now where he's playing at an All-Star level in all senses. Be great for him. I'm pushing for it. I hope it happens."
28 AND COUNTING
With Tuesday night's win over the Bulls, the Nets notched their 28th victory of the season, matching last season's total with 30 games still to go.
"Just keep going man," said D'Angelo Russell. "We're past last year so not sure we're really looking back that way, but that's definitely a good milestone to smile on or what not, but we're not really done or satisfied."
They've blown past last season's pace and put themselves in playoff position even as they've had to dig deep into the roster to deal with injuries. They've turned around their record in close games to fuel a breakthrough.
The Net have tied a team record with 11 January wins -- matching the 1983, 2002 and 2013 teams -- and can break that mark with a win Thursday night. Overall, they've won 20 of their last 26.
“This is why I wanted to be here," said Joe Harris. "You could feel something good was around the corner. You could see everyone improving. Even now, we’re shorthanded and we’re still able to close out games and play basketball the right way. I think that’s the most important thing – that we built a system here. Kenny has something established that guys can plug-in and out of and almost do it seamlessly. Obviously we hope for better things down the road once we get some guys back, but what we have established right now, I think is something we can definitely be proud of.”
OWNING THE THIRD QUARTER
One more time, the Nets turned a halftime deficit or a tie game into a lead by the end of the third quarter in beating the Bulls on Tuesday.
In 26 games since Dec. 7 -- half their season -- the Nets lead the NBA with a plus-105 margin and a 16.9 net rating in third quarters.
"Ed Davis, Jared Dudley, when we get in here, a lot of times before coach comes, we ask Jared Dudley, Ed Davis, those guys, DeMarre Carroll, what do they see? Most of the time, they're right," said Shabazz Napier. "We try to go out there and do a better job of things we didn't do in the first half. Credit to those guys, credit to the coaches putting us in better situations in the first half."
ABOUT THE SPURS
Like the Nets, San Antonio was below .500 in early December. But the Spurs have turned things around in the same time frame. While Brooklyn has the NBA's second-best winning percentage since Dec. 7 (20-6, .769), the Spurs are fifth (19-8, .704) and have risen to sixth in the Western Conference with a 30-22 record. While the Spurs lead the NBA in 3-point percentage (41.0) they are just 28th in 3-point attempts per game (25.0). Davis Bertans leads the NBA with a 48.7 3-point field goal percentage, while Bryn Forbes (42.5) and Rudy Gay (40.4) are also above 40 percent. San Antonio is also second in overall field goal percentage (48.3). The Spurs lead the league in field goal attempts from between 10 and 19 feet with 24.0 per game and 71.9 percent of their shots come from 2-point range. The Nets allow the third-most shots per game from mid-range, so the Spurs are emphasizing their shot selection in the area the Nets generally prefer to force opponents to shoot. DeMar DeRozan leads the Spurs with 21.5 points and 6.3 assists per game and also averages 6.2 rebounds per game. LaMarcus Aldridge averages 21.1 points, leads San Antonio with 8.8 rebounds per game and shoots 51.6 percent from the field.