Nets aim to get back on track against struggling Hawks

((AP)

((AP)

Opponent: Atlanta Hawks
Time & Place: 1:00 PM EST, Philips Arena
Watch: YES, FSSE
Listen: WFAN

The Brooklyn Nets saw their lone winning streak of the season end Friday night in Washington in a 129-108 loss. Brooklyn will be back at it this afternoon against the Atlanta Hawks, who are currently tied for the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference but have lost six consecutive games.

In two meetings so far this season, the Nets have come up empty-handed against the Hawks and most recently lost 110-105 on March 8th. In said game, the Nets were led by a 27-point game from Sean Kilpatrick, but Brooklyn will be without his services on Sunday, as he’ll sit out his seventh straight game.

Brooklyn’s offensive attack has been fairly balanced throughout the month of March and the bench is contributing at a very high level at this point in the season. In particular, newcomers Archie Goodwin and K.J. McDaniels have both scored in double figures each of the last three games. Spencer Dinwiddie has also provided a midseason spark for the Nets and has complimented Jeremy Lin quite nicely in the Nets backcourt.

This week, the Nets hit a high point in their season following a Brook Lopez game-winner to beat Detroit and a 28-point win against the Devin Booker-led Suns. It has been the exact opposite for the Nets opponent, the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks will need to avoid a seventh straight loss as the standings are started to get tighter below them. Despite this, the Hawks stand at 37-35 and are nearing their 10th straight playoff appearance out of the Eastern Conference.

Atlanta will be without two of their primary playmakers as Paul Millsap and Kent Bazemore sit out nursing respective knee injuries. The Hawks will, however, have Dwight Howard in the lineup, who is averaging 13.2 points and 12.8 rebounds per game this season — a thorn in the Nets’ side dating back to his days in Orlando.

Kenny Atkinson will face his former team for the third time this season and will finally look to break into the win column against the Hawks. Through all of the Nets’ successes in the month of March, Atkinson has applauded his team for their persistence and positive attitude through the tough times this season.

“Guys are continuing to compete at a high level. Play with a competitive edge. With a grit. I think our new guys have given us a huge lift.”

3 Things to Watch for in Nets-Hawks:

1. Stopping Schröder

In both meetings with Brooklyn this season, Dennis Schröder has led his team in scoring and is averaging a career high with 17.8 points and 6.3 assists on the season. With Millsap and Bazemore both out for Atlanta, expect Schroder to be a focal point of Atlanta’s offensive attack like he has been for most of the season.

2. Getting Lopez back on track

Prior to his season-low six-point effort against Washington in his last game, Lopez had scored 18 or more points in eight straight games. The Nets depend on Lopez to be their leader on the offensive end, but the Nets’ record certainly correlates with his scoring output. His presence under the rim and behind the three-point line has helped propel Brooklyn to new heights in March, but after struggling with Marcin Gortat, he’ll have to work against the looming Howard this afternoon.

3. Finish Strong

The Nets’ last meeting in Atlanta ended with a late turnover by Kilpatrick as they attempted to tie the game with under 20 seconds remaining in the game. Poor execution down the stretch has plagued the Nets this season and if this game turns into a tightly contested battle in the fourth quarter, keep an eye on how Brooklyn closes the game out.