The Brooklyn Nets have won three straight going into Monday night's game against the Detroit Pistons, their last at Barclays Center until March 30. They'll tip off a seven-game road trip Wednesday night in Oklahoma City.
The Pistons (34-31) have won eight of their last nine and have a half-game edge on the seventh-place Nets in the Eastern Conference standings. The Nets are three games up on eight-place Miami (31-35) and four on ninth place Orlando (31-37).
"I think we all knew this was a big week for us," said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson after Saturday night's win in Atlanta. "Very important with the two home games and this was circled on our calendar, game you have to get. Mission accomplished, now we have obviously a bigger game Monday against a team we're competing with for a playoff spot."
Rodions Kurucs had 16 points against the Hawks on Saturday night, making 4-of-5 3-pointers. In three games since Kenny Atkinson inserted Kurucs at the starting power forward spot, the rookie is averaging 15.0 points and 6.3 rebounds while making 10-of-16 3-point attempts.
"I don't know what neighborhood he grew up in in Latvia, but that's a tough neighborhood, because that's a tough dude," said Atkinson. "He might not look the part. He looks like a choir boy, good-looking choir boy. But him and Collins were going at it all game, two guys competing. He doesn't back down from anybody, and that's Rodi from day one, no fear. He has no fear. He doesn't fear the situation. I thought he hit a huge three off the dribble when we were really struggling, couldn't find a bucket. He's fearless."
The Atlanta Hawks shot themselves back into Saturday night's game with a hot stretch before the Nets clamped down during the stretch, but that run was the exception on the night. Brooklyn limited Atlanta to 37.1 percent shooting, including 19.5 percent (8-for-41) from 3-point range.
In winning their last three games, the Nets have posted a defensive rating of 97.2, the NBA's third-best in that short stretch.
"I thought another really solid defensive performance tonight," said Kenny Atkinson. "The rebounding, I don't know, I didn't look at the stats, I still feel like that's an Achilles' heel. I feel like we're making teams miss but not coming up with the rebound. But they're top five in rebounding, very athletic team.
JARRETT GOES BIG
After Wednesday's win over Cleveland, Kenny Atkinson praised center Jarrett Allen's aggressive play. He saw more of the same on Saturday against the Hawks. Allen finished 20 points and 12 rebounds, his second straight double-double and 22nd of the season.
Allen almost had the double-double at halftime with 11 points and nine rebounds. After a quiet third quarter, he scored nine in the fourth, eventually finishing 10-of-16 from the free throw line. Over the last two games, Allen is averaging 17.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting 84.6 percent (11-for-13).
"I thought Jarrett Allen was fantastic tonight," said Atkinson. "I thought John Collins is an absolute one of the most aggressive players in the league, athletic, he comes at you. I thought Jarrett did not back down at all and saved us with his offensive rebounding, saved us with his finishing in the paint. Great game for him.
DINWIDDIE'S RESERVE RECORD
With his 23 points against Atlanta on Saturday night, Spencer Dinwiddie set a Nets record for most points off the bench in a season. he currently has 885. Dinwiddie passed Armen Gilliam, who scored 878 points off the bench in 1993-94. Dinwiddie is just one of two NBA players with at least 800 points and 200 assists off the bench this season, along with the Clippers' Lou Williams.
ABOUT THE PISTONS
Detroit has won five straight, eight of its last nine, and 12 of 14 going back to Feb. 14. During those 14 games, the Pistons have the NBA's highest offensive rating (120.0), net rating (12.0) and effective field goal percentage (57.4). They're also in seventh in defensive rating (108.0) during that stretch. All-Star forward Blake Griffin leads the Pistons with 25.3 points and averages 7.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists. Center Andre Drummond has a pair of 20/20 games against the Nets this season and leads the NBA with 15.2 points per game while averaging 17.6 points per game and shooting 53.5 percent.