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Kenny Atkinson sees better Nets defense, stronger offense

Head coach Kenny Atkinson of the Brooklyn Nets

Head coach Kenny Atkinson of the Brooklyn Nets reacts during a game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018 in New York City. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Nets played their home finale against the Bulls Monday night at Barclays Center and came in with seven more victories than last season’s NBA-worst 20-62 record, but they were seeking a win that would give them their first three-game winning streak of the season.

The record says they’re better than last season, but Kenny Atkinson was asked before the game to put that progress in perspective for the fans. He declined to single out individual players who have improved, but he pointed to their 6-5 record in the previous 11 games as a sign they are finishing in a positive fashion.

“From an offensive standpoint, we’ve been trending positive throughout the year,” Atkinson said. “Our internal metrics have us at about 18 in offensive efficiency. Defense is probably in the low 20s. Last year we were 30th in offensive efficiency at the end of the year. Obviously, we had to get better, but I think the improvement is tangible.

“I think the defense got better. I wish there was more progress there, quite honestly. I’ve been a little disappointed after the All-Star break that we didn’t show more improvement there. I think the fact we were in a lot more close games bodes well for the future. Unfortunately, we didn’t win all of them, but I do think that’s a positive.”

Coming from where they finished last season, it’s a low bar, but the Nets’ seven-win improvement is tied for second with the Raptors in the Eastern Conference behind the 76ers’ monstrous 22-game quantum leap forward. Beyond that, it’s clear players like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Allen Crabbe, D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris all have made measurable improvement this season. Veteran DeMarre Carroll had his career-best season, and Dante Cunningham was a valuable pickup.

“I just hope the fans see that, ‘Man, they have some pieces they can go forward with. They have some young players that are improving. They added some good veterans,’ Atkinson said. “DeMarre and Dante Cunningham have been really good for us.

“I think it’s a positive outlook, there’s been positive improvement. I would have loved another 10 percent more or 15 percent more, but we’re going to keep pushing and hopefully that progress continues next season.”

New York Sports