Short-handed Nets aim to maintain dominance of Hawks

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The Brooklyn Nets are coping with the absence of Kyrie Irving fairly well thanks to the combination of Spencer Dinwiddie’s production and a display of their depth.

In their latest game without Irving, the Nets’ depth took a significant blow when David Nwaba went down with a torn right Achilles tendon on Thursday in San Antonio.

Nwaba underwent surgery on Friday in New York and will miss the rest of the season, and so the Nets hope their depth will continue to produce Saturday night when they host the struggling Atlanta Hawks.

The Nets are 11-6 without Irving (right shoulder impingement), whose last game was Nov. 14 in Denver. They took a 118-105 loss in San Antonio when Nwaba was injured in the fourth quarter, and the focus has turned to who might step up in Nwaba’s absence.

“We don’t have a choice. We’re (28) games in. What are we doing to do, not play the other 54?” Dinwiddie said. “We literally have zero choice but to dig in and next man up and all that stuff.”

Nwaba played 16 minutes before going down and his minutes could go to Rodions Kurucs, who has appeared in 13 games this season after averaging 8.5 points in 63 games as a rookie.

The Nets could also bring back Iman Shumpert, who like Nwaba is also regarded as a defensive player, but was waived on Dec. 12 to make room for Wilson Chandler.

“We’ve been here before and we’re going to have to kind of reconfigure the rotation,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “We’ll figure it out.”

Whichever way the Nets figure out who replaces Nwaba, they will continue to lean on Dinwiddie for offense. Dinwiddie scored a career-high 41 points Thursday for his fifth 30-point game of the season as well as his 15th instance in the last 17 games with at least 20 points.

Atlanta enters struggling to stop anyone, and its 6-23 record is the worst in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks are on a six-game losing streak and are 2-17 in their last 19 games since beating Denver on Nov. 12.

During the last 19 games, the Hawks are allowing 122.8 points per game, 49.6 percent shooting and 38 percent from 3-point range. The Hawks are returning to the New York area for the second time this week after absorbing a 143-120 loss to the Knicks on Tuesday.

Atlanta followed up its loss to the Knicks with a 111-106 home loss to Utah on Thursday. The Hawks allowed 47.0 percent shooting and 62 points in the paint in a game that Young acknowledge was a bit of an improvement for the struggling team.

“It was good to see that, but it’s just one game,” Atlanta star Trae Young said. “We have to continue to do it. If we play that way, with that energy and effort, we’re going to be able to turn things around and win a lot of games. If we play that way, good things are going to happen.”

Despite the constant losing, Young continues to be productive. He scored 30 points despite shooting 9-of-28 from the floor, reaching 30 points in his third straight game and 15th time this season.

Most of Atlanta’s losses are without John Collins, who will serve the last contest of his 25-game PED suspension on Saturday. Collins averaged 17.0 points and 8.8 rebounds in five games before the suspension.

The Nets enter Saturday with six straight wins over the Hawks. In the first meeting this season, Garrett Temple scored 27 points, Dinwiddie added 24 and the Nets shot 49.5 percent in a 130-118 win at Atlanta on Dec. 4 to overcome a 39-point night by Young.

–Field Level Media

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