Resurgent Nets face difficult stretch
Will face defending champs twice in three games before break
Brooklyn Head Coach Kenny Atkinson intimated that the Nets would like to enter next week’s All Star break with some serious momentum after struggling for most of the first half of this season.
Winners of four of their last five games, two in a row, Atkinson’s players will have to do so by dealing with the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors twice in their next three games before the annual hiatus for the All Star festivities in Chicago.
“Taking care of business (tonight) was important,” Atkinson said after the Nets romped over the short-handed Golden State Warriors, 129-88, on Wednesday before 14,352 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
“Now we look forward to playing two elite teams in the next three games, and it will be a good test to see where we are,” he added. “But we know we are going to need our physicality and athleticism to play against those two teams. So, good test coming up for us.”
After visiting Toronto on Saturday night, the Nets (23-27) will go to Indiana on Monday and return to Barclays for a rematch with the Raptors Wednesday in their final game before the break.
Brooklyn has won five of its last seven since a five-game losing streak, and has done it mostly without the services of superstar shooting guard Kyrie Irving, who injured his left knee last Saturday after putting up a season-high 54 points against Chicago here in Brooklyn the previous night.
But knocking off the Raptors (37-14), who boast the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, despite losing last season’s NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard this past summer, will be a daunting task.
“I think we played really good basketball these past couple games,” said Caris LeVert after leading the Nets in scoring for the second straight game in Irving’s absence Wednesday, pouring in 23 points and handing out a season-high eight assists against Golden State.
“Hopefully it carries over to the next three, because they’re going to be tough.”
Joe Harris scored 17 points and Garrett Temple added 16 off the bench for the Nets, who welcomed back former All Star point guard D’Angelo Russell by limiting him to 17 points on 7-of-20 shooting, including an 0-of-8 effort from 3-point range.
“It’s awesome to see D-Lo,” said Harris. “Even this summer, connecting with him, getting to hang—it’s unfortunate, one of those things, sort of bittersweet to see guys that close to you leave in free agency.
“But to have him come back, you kind of pick up right where you left off, just obviously him in a different jersey.”
Nothing But Net: Harris will return to All Star Weekend to defend his 3-Point Shooting championship and Spencer Dinwiddie will also represent the Nets in Chicago during the Skills Challenge, which he won in Los Angeles in 2018. “I’m looking forward to going back,” said Harris. “It’s always fun. I guess thinking back on it, memories of Charlotte (last year), I’m looking forward to participating again and competing in Chicago.”
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