Brooklyn Nets' D'Angelo Russell Sparks Win over Atlanta Hawks
Guard scores 32 with 7 assists, 6 rebounds, and no turnovers
If it seemed like D'Angelo Russell had been quiet the last few games, it depends which column of the box score you were looking in.
While Russell had not scored in double figures in two of Brooklyn's last three games -- netting 12 the other time -- he had notched a season-high 11 assists against the Knicks and then seven against Philadelphia and eight against Washington as the Nets extended their winning streak to four games with Russell averaging 9.0 assists in his last three games.
"An elite passer," is how Nets coach Kenny Atkinson has described Russell many times over the last two years, including before Sunday's game against the Atlanta Hawks.
Balance has always been the mission for Russell, merging his scoring and passing skills to maximum effect. But that doesn't necessarily mean a perfect balance in each game. Sometimes balance is giving the Nets what they need from game-to-game.
In Sunday night's 144-127 win, it was scoring that Russell delivered, attacking the lane in his familiar aggressive way and putting a charge in Brooklyn's offense both at the beginning of the game and the beginning of the second half.
"He was just spry. Spry. He was aggressive. He was energetic," said Atkinson. "Offensively he was aggressive. But I thought defensively he was locked in. When D'Angelo's like that, we take it to another level. He was excellent tonight."
Russell finished with 32 points for his fourth 30-point scoring game of the season, shooting 13-for-19 overall and 5-for-9 from 3-point range, with seven assists, six rebounds and zero turnovers -- making him the first Net to hit those marks without a turnover since Vince Carter in 2008.
"Just not forcing it," said Russell. "I always catch myself, I can speak for myself, forcing it when I don't have it instead of getting off of it, passing it to Joe Harris or Spencer or somebody else that's capable. Just trusting my teammates."
He scored 10 of Brooklyn's first 22 points, with his second 3-pointer of the game putting the Nets up 22-8 less than six minutes in as they went on to a 21-point first-quarter lead.
After Atlanta closed within six points at halftime, Russell opened up the second half with a drive and another 3-pointer to push the lead up to 77-66. The Hawks never got closer than nine again the rest of the way.
"I think that's a part that I can bring," said Russell. "Just leading by example in that aspect, getting guys going, getting off to a good start, me being the point guard. I feel like you have to do that."
Aside from the injured Caris LeVert, who's been sidelined for the last 17 games, Russell is Brooklyn's leading scorer with an 18.0 average. He also leads the Nets with 6.0 assists per game. He's shooting 42.2 percent from the field and 36.7 percent from 3-point range, career-high paces in both categories.
"I keep saying, he's a 22-year-old quarterback and this is a tough league," said Atkinson. "Atlanta, as hard as they played tonight, they've got a ton of talent. He's learning. He's learning on the job. We're giving him a ton of minutes and he keeps getting better. I know we want him perfect. We want him more consistent. I just think that's going to come with time. Again, outstanding job by him tonight."