Nets look to resume hot stretch as they host Hawks
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The Brooklyn Nets, on a month-long hot streak, are now talking about being in playoff contention in a crowded Eastern Conference field.
The Nets should be able to rebound from a rare hiccup when they host the Atlanta Hawks (12-28) on Wednesday.
The Nets return home with 12 wins in their last 16 games since blowing a 23-point lead and losing to Oklahoma City on a Paul George buzzer-beater on Dec. 5. At that time, the Nets were 8-18 and on an eight-game losing streak that featured six single-digit losses and 10 losses in 12 games after losing Caris LeVert to a foot injury.
Since then, they have climbed within striking distance of .500. A win on Wednesday would give Brooklyn (20-22) its best 17-game stretch since also going 13-4 from March 9 to April 8, 2014, when a veteran team rebounded from an awful start and won 44 games.
"We want to go higher, higher, higher," Nets rookie forward Rodions Kurucs said.
"As high as possible. The vibe here in the locker room between the guys is just great. We're hyped up. We want to win and we want to go the playoffs."
Brooklyn is coming off a 2-1 road trip.
The Nets picked up wins in Memphis and Chicago but turned in their worst performance of this stretch by shooting 40.5 percent and committing a season-worst 23 turnovers in a 116-95 loss at Boston on Monday.
"We've just got to take it game-by-game," Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie said.
"Our focus right now is to beat Atlanta. That's how we got here and to shift it now and try to take a holistic outlook and (say), 'Hey, if we win five out of our next seven then we'll be in the playoffs,' I don't think that does us justice.
"Just get one percent better every day, take each game a game at a time and beat Atlanta."
The Nets will hope more players will be available for Wednesday after DeMarre Carroll (sore left knee) and Joe Harris (right ankle sprain) joined Allen Crabbe (sore right knee) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (groin) on the sideline Monday.
While Crabbe and Hollis-Jefferson were already declared out for Wednesday, Carroll and Harris are listed as probable.
Regardless of who plays, the Nets will be hoping to see more development from Kurucs and a bounce-back showing from D'Angelo Russell. Kurucs scored a career-high 24 points Monday, but Russell was unable to get a fifth straight 20-point game and was held to five points.
One of Brooklyn's wins in its hot streak was a 144-127 home win over Atlanta on Dec. 16. Atlanta will take the floor after taking a late-night flight from Toronto, where it took a 104-101 loss on Tuesday.
Since allowing Brooklyn to shoot 55.7 percent in the first meeting, Atlanta is 6-5 in its last 11 games and half of its victories are close road wins in New York, Detroit and Minnesota.
On Tuesday, Atlanta lost on a shot by Serge Ibaka with 17 seconds remaining in a game in which it allowed 34 points off 27 turnovers.
"I think if we keep it under 20 the result is a little different but that's the way it happened," Atlanta's Vince Carter said. "We still had a chance to win and that's all you can ask for with a team like this."
John Collins, who had 21 points and 14 rebounds against Toronto, has 14 double-doubles in his last 17 games. Former Nets guard Jeremy Lin added 20 points and likely will be in the starting lineup again Wednesday.
In the first visit to Brooklyn, Atlanta's starters were rookie Kevin Huerter, Collins, Dewayne Dedmon, Kent Bazemore and rookie Trae Young. Bazemore likely will miss his sixth straight game with a sprained right ankle, and Huerter may sit for a second consecutive contest due to a back injury.
"To come into this building against this team, short-handed -- we never use lack of bodies as an excuse but we're missing three key guys, so it was a great opportunity for a bunch of young players to step up and I thought everyone did," Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce said.
"We squeezed as much out of every person that stepped on the court today."
One player who will see some time is Carter, who received a nice ovation in his latest return to Toronto on Tuesday. Carter played for the Nets from 2004 to 2009 after being obtained from Toronto in Dec. 2004.
The Nets are seeking a fourth straight win over the Hawks, which would match the franchise's longest winning streak in the series.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 9, 2019