It wasn’t necessarily the prettiest basketball game, but the Atlanta Hawks grinded out the win over the Brooklyn Nets to improve to 35-29 on the season. This places them in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference, as has been the case for much of the campaign thus far. The past few weeks have been less than convincing for Atlanta, and their upcoming schedule suggests that they will have a difficult time winning games if this trend continues.
The Nets, meanwhile, fall to 11-52 which places them in the cellar of the conference. This was largely expected for the organization coming into the season, but it hurts even more that their first-round pick will be made by the Boston Celtics due to the massive Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett trade.
Schroder Bounces Back
It was a positive sign for the Hawks to see their young point guard Dennis Schroder have a big game after being benched against the Golden State Warriors for arguing with teammate Dwight Howard and giving up an open three-pointer. Schroder dropped 31 points to go along with five assists and three steals on the night, and he was the primary x-factor in the Hawks pulling it out.
Paul Millsap was as consistent as always, contributing 24 points and locking down the Nets on the defensive end of the floor. His fellow frontcourt partner, Howard, secured a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds in his matchup against Brook Lopez.
Tim Hardaway Jr.’s scoring output continued, as he came off the bench to put up 16 points including some thunderous slam dunks. In his contract year, Hardaway Jr. has improved in basically every facet of the game and is due to get a significant pay raise in the offseason. Speaking of pay raises, fellow wing Kent Bazemore has struggled to back up the performances that led to his contract this past offseason. He struggled once again in this one, shooting just 3-for-13 on the way to seven points.
Kilpatrick’s Heroics Not Enough
Nets' guard Sean Kilpatrick has showcased the ability to score at will at certain times this season, and tonight was one of those cases. He finished with 27 points off the bench and dragged the Nets back into the game on several occasions.
Guard Jeremy Lin has begun to settle back in since missing significant time due to injury, and had 16 points and eight assists on the night.
The centerpiece of this team, Brook Lopez, had a relatively quiet offensive night of 18 points and six rebounds but was a defensive force with five blocks. Trevor Booker was the only other Net to score double digits, and the defense overall wasn’t quite good enough to hold off the Hawks.
It is obvious that the Nets are experimenting with different players to see who can become a solid piece in their rebuilding effort, but it seems like the veteran Lopez is slowing down the process. It is surprising that he has not been dealt yet, as the franchise should be wanting to recoup some draft picks that they have previously traded away. This season might be the one that convinces the front office to finally do so.
The Hawks’ next test will be against a potential first-round playoff opponent and the Toronto Raptors on Friday night. Raptors' point guard Kyle Lowry is out as he tries to recover in time for the postseason, so look for Dennis Schroder to try and capitalize on his matchup early and often.
The Nets travel to face the Dallas Mavericks on Friday, and it will be interesting to see how guard Yogi Farrell performs. The rookie appeared in ten games for Brooklyn before being waived and has since had some big-time games in Dallas.