Jarrett Allen enjoyed the chance to play with Hawks second-year forward John Collins in the Rising Stars Challenge and called him an “amazing person,” but that didn’t prevent him from throwing Collins to the floor when he got too aggressive in the first quarter of the Nets’ 114-112 victory Saturday night in Atlanta.
The rare display of temper and physicality by the Nets’ second-year center drew a technical foul, but coach Kenny Atkinson welcomed it as a sign of Allen’s improving toughness.
“I thought Jarrett Allen was fantastic,” Atkinson said after he recorded his team-high 22nd double-double of the season with 20 points and 12 rebounds. “John Collins is one of the most aggressive players in the league. He comes at you. Jarrett did not back down at all and saved us with his offensive rebounding, saved us with his finishing in the paint. A big game for him.”
Now Allen and the Nets face a far tougher test against the red-hot Pistons on Monday night at Barclays Center. Detroit defeated the Bulls on Sunday afternoon for its 12th win in the past 14 games and moved into sixth place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game ahead of the Nets.
The willowy Allen will have his hands full with 279-pound All-Star center Andre Drummond, who outweighs him by more than 40 pounds.
Comparing his game against the Hawks to what he expects against the Pistons, Allen said, “This game, I was trying to show my strength, pushing people around. That game, it’s going to be my speed. I have to use a different aspect of my game to try to get the edge over Drummond.”
Atkinson has asked Allen to play with more physicality, and he’s taking his cues from veteran backup center Ed Davis, one of the NBA’s most efficient rebounders.
“I’ve seen what Ed Davis is doing, and I’m trying to add that to my game, trying to emulate it more using my hands to push people out of the way and not trying to be so fundamental about it,” Allen said with a laugh.
At the same time, Allen has excelled in pick-and-roll situations on offense, which is why he has six double-doubles in his past 13 games.
“Looking back, Amare Stoudemire was an amazing pick-and-roll player,” Allen said. “I’m trying to emulate his game, trying to emulate his mentality.”
Allen isn’t the only Net who must bring his hard hat against the Pistons. Since rookie Rodions Kurucs returned to the starting lineup, the Nets have gone 3-0, and Kurucs has recorded a career-high four straight games scoring in double figures. He will be matched against Pistons All-Star power forward Blake Griffin, but Atkinson said he’s up to any challenge.
“I don’t know what neighborhood he grew up in in Latvia, but that’s a tough neighborhood because that’s a tough dude,” Atkinson said.
“He looks like a good-looking choirboy, but he doesn’t back down from anybody. He has no fear . . . He’s saving us a little bit right now. Since we put him at the four spot, he’s really responded well, and I don’t think we win these games without him.”