Russell and Dinwiddie Displaying ‘Altruism’
Nets duo combines for 54 points in victory over Orlando at Barclays
D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie spent the better part of this season taking turns playing virtuoso for the Nets.
Now, the two are working in tandem to conduct the full Downtown Brooklyn orchestra.
“I see more of a meshing. More and more every time,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said after the dynamic duo combined for 54 points Wednesday night in Brooklyn’s 114-110 victory over the visiting Orlando Magic in front of 13,185 fans at the Barclays Center.
“I know advanced [statistical analytics] says they don’t play well together, but they’re going to be in at the end of the game,” Atkinson added. “They’re two of our top players. Having multiple ball-handlers like that is huge.”
Russell resumed his push for Eastern Conference All-Star honors with 25 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, and Dinwiddie continued to bolster his chances for winning the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year honor with a game-high 29 points as the red-hot Nets won their fifth game in a row and seventh straight at home.
Whereas once neither seemed to function at full efficiency while the other was on the court, Russell and Dinwiddie have now become a dual threat, leading Brooklyn on a breathtaking 18-5 run since early December, the franchise’s best 23-game stretch since 2006.
“They really know how to play off of each other now,” Atkinson said of his two high-scoring guards, who topped 20 points apiece in a game for the fourth time this year.
“Especially the plays we run at the end of the game; they’re looking out for each other. D’Angelo called a play for Spencer with under two minutes there. It was a big play. That’s the kind of altruism we have right now.”
Russell and Dinwiddie scored nine points apiece in the third quarter, when Brooklyn jumped in front, 89-86, entering the final period, and were on the floor together for a late 7-0 run that put Brooklyn ahead to stay, 109-104, with just under three minutes to play.
“I just think when we’re both aggressive it works out best for us,” noted Russell, the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week.
“Like I said, as we’re getting games under our belts, I think we’re realizing how to play off each other and be aggressive and kind of playmaking and make things happen every time we get the ball.”
The Nets did get a couple of fortunate bounces in crunch time en route to their latest win, which thrust them a season-high three games above .500 (26-23) and kept them entrenched as the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Orlando center Nikola Vucevic accidentally tipped in a DeMarre Carroll miss with 40.7 seconds left to give Brooklyn a five-point lead and committed a basket interference violation on a potential Magic score that would have knotted the game with 3.1 ticks remaining.
But that’s the way things tend to go when you are one of the hottest teams in the NBA.
Russell sank a pair of free throws shortly thereafter to ice the victory as Brooklyn fans celebrated the team’s 11th win in the past 12 outings on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.
“Spencer and D’Lo really carried us offensively most of the night,” said Joe Harris after contributing 13 points and stepping up into the lane to get a key charging call on Vucevic with 1:25 remaining in regulation.
“Again, it’s a collective effort,” Harris added. “Guys were stepping up, making big plays, and it kind of just boiled down to getting stops and dipping on the defensive end.”
Carroll finished with 19 points and rookie Rodions Kurucs added 13 for Brooklyn, which will try to finish off a perfect 3-0 homestand Friday night against the New York Knicks in the final meetings between the area rivals this season.
Dinwiddie, who went 10-of-17 from the floor and 7-of-9 at the line, is confident that his newfound on-the-court kinship with Russell and the Nets’ unexpected surge into serious playoff contention won’t end any time soon.
Especially if Brooklyn continues its altruistic, humble approach.
“Right now, we’re just a feel-good story,” Dinwiddie said. “We haven’t even made the playoffs yet. This definitely isn’t a time to rest on our laurels.”
Nothing But Net: Following their showdown with the Knicks on Friday night, the Nets will head to Boston Monday to take on the Celtics before returning to Barclays Center Tuesday night for a tilt with the Chicago Bulls. … Power forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson left Wednesday night’s game in the third quarter after suffering what the team called a left shoulder strain. Atkinson indicated in his post-game press conference that the injury didn’t appear to be serious, but RHJ’s status for Friday’s game was not known at press time. … Dinwiddie has scored at least 25 points off the bench 10 times thus far this season, establishing a new franchise record. … Russell has dished out at least seven assists in a career-high six consecutive games.
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