Crabbe orchestrates Barclays birthday bash
Scores career-high 41 as Brooklyn wins season-high 3rd straight in home finale
Allen Crabbe didn’t blow out any candles, but he did shoot the lights out at Downtown’s Barclays Center on Monday night.
Crabbe celebrated his 26th birthday with a near-perfect shooting display, lifting the Brooklyn Nets to their first three-game winning streak of this soon-to-be-completed season.
The Los Angeles native scored a career-high 41 points while missing only three shots during 34 spectacular minutes as the surging Nets topped the Chicago Bulls, 114-105, before a Fan Appreciation Night crowd of 16,187 on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.
“I shook his hand after the game and it was still hot, still cooking,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said of Crabbe after Brooklyn won three consecutive games for the first time since early last April.
“I thought his overall game was good, obviously started out hot and kept it going,” Atkinson added. “He’s really finishing the season the way we’re asking the team to finish, on a strong note.”
The Nets have certainly heeded Atkinson’s advice, going a season-best 7-5 during the past dozen games while emerging victorious in five of their last seven contests.
Crabbe, who is averaging 22.5 points per game this month, has finally found a steady scoring groove at the tail end of a mostly inconsistent season following his acquisition from Portland last summer.
The 6-foot-6 shooting guard didn’t waste any time giving Nets fans something to truly appreciate Monday, scoring 17 of Brooklyn’s first 19 points and entering halftime with 29 points.
“The ball’s going in the hoop for me. Like I’ve said from the jump, I’ve been capable of doing this all season,” Crabbe said.
“So, I mean it’s starting to come around for me. I’m starting to find my rhythm, and you know just getting more comfortable within the flow of the offense.”
Crabbe finished an eye-popping 12-of-15 from the floor, including 8-of-11 from 3-point range, nailed all nine of his free-throw attempts, grabbed five rebounds, dished out four assists and picked up a steal and a blocked shot while committing only one turnover.
“Tonight was just a night where I’m glad I had a night on my birthday, and we got the win. It just puts the cherry on top,” Crabbe said.
That cherry will taste even sweeter if the Nets find a way to go into the offseason on a four-game winning streak by beating playoff-bound Boston in Beantown in Wednesday’s regular-season finale.
Brooklyn hasn’t won four straight since ripping off six in a row from March 25-April 3, 2015 en route to making its last playoff appearance before its current three-season postseason drought.
“Maybe we’re turning that corner that we wanted to hit a little earlier in the season, but it’s better late than never,” noted Crabbe.
“Let’s get this last one in Boston and just go into the offseason with some momentum. We have to feel good about ourselves and you know just end the season off the right way.”
Crabbe isn’t the only Net feeling good as the offseason approaches.
D’Angelo Russell has emerged as the team’s top facilitator since returning from a two-month absence due to a knee injury.
Russell amassed 21 points and 12 assists against the Bulls while backcourt mate Spencer Dinwiddie added 20 points to help the Nets complete their first seasons series sweep of Chicago since the 2004-05 campaign in New Jersey.
“I try to pass the ball to whoever’s open. Coach gives me that freedom,” said Russell.
“The more I’m here, the more the trust will slowly elevate, but we got shot-makers around here. They make it easier for me, so I appreciate my teammates for that.”
Though they will max out at 29 wins if they beat the Celtics on Wednesday, the Nets have at least given their fans something to cheer about down the stretch.
“I thought the fans have been great all year and really want to thank them for their support,” Atkinson said. “We’ve had some tough games, some good games, some not so good games, but they’ve been there.
“I think this is the unique thing about being in New York, no insult to other markets and all that, but we have true basketball fans here. You see it, you feel it.”
And for perhaps the first time during this 82-game grind of an NBA season, the Nets collectively feel that they are headed in the right direction, one that might result in a postseason berth as soon as next year.
“I just think it’s awesome,” Atkinson added. “I’m really hopeful down the line we can really reward them with something special, give them a gift.”
Nothing But Net: Veteran forward DeMarre Carroll, who has emerged as the strongest voice in the Nets’ locker room this season, greeted the Fan Appreciation Night crowd at Barclays Center with a few words prior to Monday’s game. Carroll, who sat out the contest with a hip injury, tipped off the evening’s festivities with the following speech: “On behalf of my teammates and the Brooklyn Nets organization, we would like to thank you all for your tremendous support. We hope to see each and every one of you next season, and me and my teammates, we’re going to guarantee that we’re going to continue to keep growing on the court and in the Brooklyn community. So, everybody come back next year energized and ready and let’s make a move to try to push to the playoffs. Let’s go Brooklyn.”