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Opponents gang up to slow Spencer Dinwiddie

Nets guard, who is second in the NBA in scoring off the bench, has seen his scoring and assists decline as he draws attention of defenses.

Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie drives for the

Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie drives for the basket as Toronto Raptors forward Serge Ibaka defends on Jan. 11, 2019. Photo Credit: AP/Frank Gunn

It was just one month ago that the Nets reached agreement with Spencer Dinwiddie on a three-year contract extension worth $34.3 million. It was a career-defining deal for a player who was in the G League just three years ago before joining the Nets and taking a quantum leap forward under the guidance of coach Kenny Atkinson.

Dinwiddie, who is second in the NBA in scoring off the bench with an average of 17.1 points per game, thrived in the immediate aftermath of the signing, peaking with a game of 37 points and 11 assists in a win over Charlotte the day after Christmas. But in the eight games since then, he has declined dramatically, averaging 11.3 points and 4.0 assists.

For the season, he is averaging 17.1 points and 5.1 assists and shooting 45.9 percent overall and 36.1 percent from three-point range. In the past eight games, however, his shooting has declined to 34.7 percent overall and 29.6 percent from three-point range.

He scored only eight points and shot 1-for-7 in a blowout loss Friday in Toronto, and Dinwiddie bristled when Atkinson said, “I think Spencer can play better. I think he’s in a little bit of a slump right now. He needs to get out of it for us to be a good team.”

Obviously, Nets opponents have noted Dinwiddie’s ability to get to the rim and have adjusted to bring defensive help to make it tougher for him to score in the paint. In that regard, the Raptors did a great job against him Friday.

Asked about the extra defensive attention he’s getting, Dinwiddie played it off. “Thank you,” he said. “That seems like a compliment to me. My job is to be in the paint and kick out or shoot it. That’s what I’m trying to do. That’s what Coach wants me to do, so when I have the ball, that’s what I try to do.”

That is exactly Dinwiddie’s job description in the offense. He must score for the Nets to be effective. Now that he has established himself as a force, he can expect top teams to gang up to stop his forays to the rim, and he can’t settle for step-back jumpers.

“The Raptors are a great physical team,” Dinwiddie said. “They’re a great ballclub in general, so they’re going to do things to try to take away the opposing team’s offense. That’s just part of it. We still got good looks in general but we didn’t knock down shots consistently enough.”

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