BOSTON — It’s easy to say the NBA’s regular season is in garbage time, but the Nets’ 7-5 record down the stretch includes two wins over playoff-bound teams. And their three-point shooting during the three-game win streak they carry to TD Banknorth Garden for the season finale against the Celtics Wednesday night has been absolutely off the charts.
Over the course of road wins at Milwaukee and Chicago and a victory over the Bulls in their home finale Monday, the Nets made at least 18 threes and shot over 40 percent beyond the arc in three straight games. It adds up to 44.9-percent three-point shooting over that span, and the Nets (28-53) also recorded at least 30 assists in each of those games.
It never looked better than Monday night’s win when D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Allen Crabbe teamed up for a tremendous performance on the perimeter. Crabbe had a career-high 41 points; Russell had 21 points and 11 assists, many of them brilliant seeing-eye passes, and Dinwiddie had one of his best games in a while with 20 points and seven assists after returning to the starting lineup.
“I thought Spencer got back to being the old Spencer,” said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, who had been critical of Dinwiddie for not using his driving skills enough. “He was aggressive, he was driving it, he was getting to the rim, and that’s who he’s been 90 percent of the year . . . He was great tonight. [Together with Russell] they alternated on the ball, off the ball, and that’s the way this offense was meant to be.”
Russell committed a team-high five turnovers, and Atkinson said they are working to bring that number down. But that’s part of the territory when Russell is threading the eye of a needle.
“He’s more comfortable with the offense,” Atkinson said of Russell. “The coach doesn’t have to call a play every time. He sees it, he feels it, he knows where the weakness is in the defense and calls it. Obviously, he made some, not good passes, but elite, elite passes.
“Again, it’s understanding where he can get his teammates shots. Allen Crabbe had 41 points, but D’Angelo knows, ‘Hey, let’s run this play because I know you’re hot, and let’s run it to this side because I know that’s the side you shoot better.’ There’s a lot of nuances that he understands that are helpful. It’s the old quarterback on the court situation. He has a great mind where he can get shots for other guys and he can get shots for himself when it counts.”
Russell said Chicago’s defensive style played into the Nets’ hands. “They blitz ball screens so it gives us a different outlook as far as what our offense is,” Russell said. “They’re forcing guys to get off the ball and make plays. Kenny put guys in a great position to make plays. We just capitalized on it.”
Told how much his teammates appreciate the way he’s finding the open man every time opposing defenses trap him, Russell said, “We’re winning, and guys are playing well, so I agree.”