While the Brooklyn Nets were glad to rack up another win and continue their recovery from a nightmarish start to the season, next on the agenda is wider margins of victory.
Winning big figures to help reduce minutes needed from star Kevin Durant, with a meeting against the struggling Atlanta Hawks on Friday that will complete an impressive seven-game homestand.
Brooklyn is 5-1 on the homestand with the five victories by a combined 42 points or 8.4 per game. That margin might be higher if not for what unfolded in the past two Brooklyn victories.
On Friday, the Nets took a 36-point lead on the Toronto Raptors and wound up with a 114-105 win. On Wednesday. Brooklyn opened a 23-point lead late in the first half before getting a 122-116 win over the Charlotte Hornets.
The Nets are 8-5 in games decided by single digits, including a 6-2 mark since Nov. 1. Durant has played at least 36 minutes in seven straight games and Wednesday, he scored 29 points to supplement Kyrie Irving’s 33 points as the duo combined to score Brooklyn’s final 15 points.
“Good thing we have some pretty good players to execute at the end of the game, which we did for the most part,” Brooklyn coach Jacque Vaughn said. “I love that piece of it. But we just got too comfortable and started to let them get where they wanted to.”
Durant, who is known for playing extended minutes, leads the NBA with 958 minutes played. He has converted all that time of late to averages of 29.8 points and 27.4 minutes during the homestand.
“It’s just stretches of the season where you are trying to win games, you’re trying to win that day’s game and you hope you get through by playing Kevin those amount of minutes with the long-term view of cutting those minutes,” Vaughn said.
The Hawks aren’t focused on wide margins of victory, they will take what they can get at this point. Since a two-point win at Toronto on Nov. 19, the Hawks are 3-6.
They will also be missing a key cog as the Hawks said Thursday that standout guard Dejounte Murray will miss approximately two weeks due to a left ankle sprain he suffered during Wednesday’s 113-89 road loss to the New York Knicks.
Murray underwent an MRI exam in New York on Thursday, which confirmed the sprain “with associated swelling.”
In the loss to the Knicks, Atlanta shot a season-worst 37.6 percent and missed 30 of 36 3-point tries that added up to a season-low 16.7-percent success rate.
Perhaps worse than the subpar shooting numbers when Murray sprained his left ankle 3 1/2 minutes into the first quarter.
With Murray out, his absence could leave the Hawks without three starters. John Collins will miss at least another week with an ankle injury and De’Andre Hunter has been out with a thigh injury but was upgraded to questionable on Thursday.
Also, Trae Young missed Thursday’s practice with an illness but wasn’t added to the Hawks’ injury report.
On Wednesday, Young scored 19 points, marking the fourth time all season he was held under 20. He shot 9 of 20 from the field, missed all four of his 3-point tries and is 5 of 34 (14.7 percent) from behind the arc in his past five contests.
“Obviously we were trying to figure out a rhythm with Dejounte, and with guys being in and out right now it’s tough,” Young said after the Hawks trailed by as many as 28 and were held under 90 points for the time since last Christmas. “But we’ve just got to fight through this time and whenever we get everybody back, we’ll be really good.”
Brooklyn is 12-3 in the past 15 meetings between the teams, going back to the 2017-18 season.
–Field Level Media