Sunday afternoon against the Miami Heat, Jarrett Allen had his string of double-figure scoring games stopped at nine. Blitzing point guard Spencer Dinwiddie with double-teams, the Heat did a solid job disrupting the Spencer Dinwiddie/Allen pick-and-row flow that has been a cornerstone of the Brooklyn offense over the past three weeks.
But that stretch has represented a big step forward for the third-year center, who wasn’t discouraged from posting his fifth straight double-figure rebounding game with 12 boards, despite getting just three field goal attempts.
Over the last 10 games, Allen is averaging 14.6 points and 12.3 rebounds while shooting 70.7 percent from the field. In the nine games before Brooklyn faced Miami on Sunday, he had seven double-doubles, including a 22-point, 21-rebound performance in a win in Cleveland.
Allen’s offensive surge has coincided roughly with the presence of Dinwiddie in the starting lineup, and the familiarity between the two in their third year as teammates has been evident in the way they’ve thrived in getting more minutes together.
“Absolutely, there’s no doubt about it. They have a comfort,” said Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson. “Especially pick and roll, it’s like when you used to go to the schoolyard with your favorite receiver when you were the quarterback. You knew every move he was making. Those guys have connected a lot. They know each other’s moves. They know the spacing. They know the timing, Big advantage. Think Jarrett’s playing great basketball. Just thrilled that he’s really starting to, not only develop from a basketball standpoint but his growth as an athlete. Just keeps getting better. Twenty-one years old. There’s a lot of room for growth still. That’s a real exciting thing for the Nets.”
“We’ve known each other for three years now,” said Allen of his chemistry with Dinwiddie. “We’ve been playing almost every day together. We kind of know what each other likes to do and what each other are going to do. There’s definitely a higher comfort level.”
Dinwiddie, who had 29 points against Miami on Sunday, has taken the lead role in the Brooklyn offense during that same stretch. He had back-to-back 11-assist games against Boston going into the Miami game. Over Brooklyn’s last 10 games he’s leading the Nets with 24.2 points and 7.0 assists per game.
“He did the same thing last year,” said Atkinson. “Talented player who keeps improving. I think he thrives in these situations where it’s his responsibility is thrust upon him. He steps up. I’ve not only seen that in games, but also in practice. You see when he’s on the second team, he loves that. He loves having the ball in his hands a lot. Natural for him. I’ll say the one thing about Spencer that isn’t talked about is he plays both ends. The other night (New York’s Marcus) Morris was hurting us. With four minutes left to go, he goes, ‘I got him.’ That was the challenge for him, to be a guy that plays both ends. He’s really doing it.”
CONNECTING IN ATLANTA
The Nets and Hawks share plenty of connections going into Wednesday night’s game in Atlanta. Nets coach Kenny Atkinson was a Hawks assistant coach for four seasons before coming to Brooklyn in 2016. The last three were with head coach Mike Budenholzer, who drafted Nets forward Taurean Prince in the first round in 2016 and coached him for two seasons before Lloyd Pierce took over last season.
“That’s big for him,” said Atkinson of Prince’s return to Atlanta. “I think that’s a big part of who he is, with obviously Bud and Lloyd. Kind of think of him as an Atlanta Hawk right now, but we want people to think of him as a Brooklyn Net. I get that it’s special.”
The Hawks have former Net Allen Crabbe, who was traded to Atlanta last summer as part of the deal that brought Prince to Brooklyn. Crabbe missed Atlanta’s first 10 games before averaging 5.3 points in the next 10. He missed Sunday’s win against Golden State with an illness and will be out against the Nets as well.
Atlanta also has 42-year-old Vince Carter in his final pro season. In five seasons with the Nets from 2004 to 2009, Carter averaged 23.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists. He’s the franchise’s career scoring leader in its NBA era.
ABOUT THE HAWKS
The young Hawks have stumbled to a 5-16 start, losing 10 straight before Sunday’s 104-79 win over Golden State. Of Atlanta’s top eight scorers, all are 25 or younger and five are in their first or second season. They’ve been without third-year forward John Collins since their sixth game due to a PED suspension.
Atlanta is 25th in the NBA in defensive rating (113.3), 26th in offensive rating (104.1), and last in 3-point shooting percentage (31.1). The bright spot has been dynamic second-year guard Trae Young, who is averaging 28.2 points and 8.3 assists while shooting 38.5 percent from 3-point range.
“It’s the ultimate green light, which is smart by Lloyd and the Hawks. He’s super-talented,” said Kenny Atkinson of Young’s play. “The problem is that he’s not just a pass quarterback. He’s run-pass, run, pass, scramble, like you want to blitz him and he’s an elite passer. Obviously the distance, with Steph (Curry) out, we haven’t really faced something like that. It just turns your scout, the poor assistant that has the scout, it makes a big headache for us, because you have to change your principles a little. I don’t think you can stick with your basic defense all the time with him.”