Nets vs. Hawks: Let's Play Two for Brooklyn and Atlanta

There will be something new in Brooklyn this week as the Nets play consecutive games against the Atlanta Hawks at Barclays Center on Wednesday and Friday. These short, two-game series’ that will pop up throughout the season are part of the NBA’s effort to limit travel during the coronavirus pandemic, and in doing so it also makes it a little easier to fit in the 72-game schedule on a compressed timeline.

This is one of three such sets for Brooklyn in the first half of the schedule that has been released by the league and runs through March 4. The Nets will also host the Heat for consecutive games on Jan. 23 and 25, and they’ll be at Cleveland for consecutive games on Jan. 20 and Jan. 22. Brooklyn will also stay in Los Angeles to face the Lakers and Clippers consecutively.

This is also part of a home-heavy schedule stretch for the Nets. Starting with last Monday’s game against Memphis, they’re playing six straight, eight of nine, and 10 of 12 at Barclays Center, with one of the road games coming against the Knicks.


Jarrett Allen has opened the season by attacking the offensive boards, and that’s helped make him seventh in the league in total rebounds per game with 11.8 through the first week of action.

Allen has had at least three offensive rebounds in every game, and he’s tied for second in the league with 4.3 offensive rebounds per game. He’s increased his offensive board work over each of his last three seasons, with a career-high 3.1 per game in 2019-20, and he’s taken another leap so far this season with aggressive play.

Against Memphis on Monday, Allen had 15 rebounds in 22 minutes after grabbing 14 the night before in Charlotte, for a pretty strong back-to-back.


While Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving weren’t active on the court Monday night against Memphis, they made their presence felt throughout the game.

“When those two guys are up cheering, it means a lot when they’re not playing to see them bought in and wanting to see everybody succeed,” said Chris Chiozza. “That’s what the whole team tries to do, not just those two guys. But when your two leaders are into the game and they’re not playing, talking you up, giving you advice, telling you what they see — they might see different things than what you’re seeing on the court — every little bit helps.”

“It’s great to see your two best players supporting their teammates and giving them confidence and energy,” said Steve Nash. “That’s leadership and that’s important for those guys on the floor to feel support from those two.”

On the second half of Brooklyn’s first back-to-back of the season, the Nets decided to hold back Durant and Irving, both coming off injuries. It was also the Nets’ third game in four nights. With the compressed NBA schedule for the 2020-21 season, there will be more sets like this to navigate. The Nets have three back-to-backs coming up in January, all of which are part of playing three games in four nights. Between Jan. 5 and Jan. 13, they’ll play six games in nine days.

“Just trying to be really measured with the demands on those guys and monitoring adaptation back to the NBA,” said Nash. “Kevin hasn't played in 18 months coming off a career-threatening injury. Ky has had a surgery and he's played 20 games in 18 months or more. Got to monitor with all the demands placed on them and be able to protect them and their ongoing health.”


After a pair of breezy 20-plus point victories in his first two career games as a coach, Steve Nash has seen a different perspective over Brooklyn’s last two down-to-the-wire losses, a 106-104 finish in Charlotte on Sunday night, and a 116-111 overtime loss to Memphis at home on Monday.

“I’m not sure that I’ve learned anything specific, except obviously it’s a great experience for me to be in that situation that you can’t replicate that I’ve never been in before,” said Nash. “So, it’s important for me to feel it and to know what it takes to manage a game on the sidelines there. That was good for me obviously to get as many reps as I can over there in those situations. Lot of learning for me to do as well, but our staff does a great job and our players played hard, and that’s the most important thing.”


Caris LeVert and Joe Harris are the only Nets that predate Spencer Dinwiddie’s arrival in Brooklyn. The Nets’ tenured trio endured two seasons with fewer than 30 wins before breaking through to 42 wins in 2018-19 and then consecutive playoff appearances. The development of Harris and Dinwiddie, signed as free agents, and LeVert, a No. 20 draft pick, have been integral to Brooklyn’s rise.

With Brooklyn shaping up as a championship contender for 2020-21, they’ll have to go on without Dinwiddie for the foreseeable future after he suffered a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament in Charlotte on Sunday night.

“Just want to say, hat’s off to Spence, man,” said LeVert in his first remarks after Monday night’s game. “I know that’s a really tough injury. That’s one of my brothers. We’ve built a close bond over these last couple of years. So definitely with him, prayers with him. I spoke to him earlier today, he seemed to be in good spirits. Definitely, definitely praying for him, fighting for him for the rest of the season for sure.”

“It's devastating. Difficult blow for the team,” said Harris. “Spencer is obviously an All-Star caliber player and losing him is a huge impact on both ends of the ball. And for morale sake around the locker room you never want to see one of your teammates go down.”

Nets coach Steve Nash is newer to Dinwiddie, but quickly expressed strong impressions of his game, and opened the season with him in the starting lineup. Nash said he hadn’t spoken with Dinwiddie on Monday, but connected via text.

“He is incredibly positive and he’s already up for the challenge,” said Nash. “You know, that’s Spencer. He’s gonna battle and do everything he can, and I think he’ll be better than ever when he comes back. Filling his spot in the rotation is -- on the one hand it’s difficult because we have such a unique profile. A lot of athleticism and versatility. On the other hand, we have depth. So we’ll see, I don’t have necessarily a formula for you yet. But we have depth and we have guys that we’re confident in that can fill those minutes.”


The Hawks, who finished 20-47 last season, have jumped out to a 3-0 start. They’ve been explosive offensively so far, leading the league in points (124.7), offensive rating (119.9), and true shooting percentage (63.5). True shooting percentage factors in 3-pointers and free throws, and the Hawks lead the league in free throws attempted (33.0) and made (28.3), while they’re third in 3-point percentage (41.6) on the league’s eighth-most attempts per game (37.7). They’re off to the fast start even though new acquisitions Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo, Kris Dunn, and Clint Capela have only played one game each. Trae Young is second in the league with 34.0 points per game while shooting 53.1 percent overall and 42.1 percent from 3-point range, plus 7.3 assists per game. John Collins is averaging 14.0 points on 53.8 percent shooting and Kevin Huerter is averaging 13.7 points while shooting 43.8 percent from 3-point range.