Clutch play from bench helps Nets climb back into playoff contention

Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie (8) celebrates a three-point basket in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Corey Sipkin).

Coming off of their recent showdown at The Garden against the Knicks, the Nets look like they’re ready for a serious run at the playoffs.

Brooklyn captured the crosstown showdown Sunday night with a 103-101 win on the Knicks’ home court. It was the Nets’ third-straight victory, and elevated them to the .500 mark with an 8-8 record.

That may not sound like much of an accomplishment, but the Nets appear to be righting the ship after a relatively slow start. Entering Monday night’s matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Nets are winners of six of their last 10 games, with their most recent victories coming with star Kyrie Irving sidelined with injuries.

A good team finds ways to succeed in adversity, turning at times to bench players who come through in the clutch. For the Nets, Spencer Dinwiddie is doing just that.

Subbing for the injured Irving, Dinwiddie dropped 30 points in Sunday’s victory over the Knicks. It was the fifth straight game in which he stored at least 20 or more points. On Sunday, he went 13 of 14 from the foul line. 

Nets coach Kenny Atkinson called Dinwiddie a “difference-maker right now” following the win. 

Moreover, the Nets’ recent hot streak comes with their starting backcourt out due to injury — something which leaves Jarrett Allen optimistic.

“We don’t have some of our better players on the court but we’re still finding a way to win,” Allen said.

Irving, who’s resting an injured right shoulder, is expected to return to the Nets starting lineup Friday in Brooklyn against the Boston Celtics. It’s not clear, however, if Dinwiddie will return to the bench or be moved to another role in the starting lineup. He could sub for Caris Lavert, who’s recovering from thumb surgery.

“I’m not the coach, I don’t make those decisions,” Dinwiddie said. “If that’s the new role then that’s what I’ll do, and if it’s not then it’s not.”

There’s plenty of basketball left to be played, and the Nets are starting to solidify their standing as a playoff contender. 

Back at the .500 mark, the Nets found themselves on Monday sitting seventh in the Eastern Conference standings, which would put them in the playoffs if that result holds up. They’re also sitting 3 ½ games behind the first-place Toronto Raptors in the Atlantic Division. 

With the recent addition of Imam Shumpert, who helped the Cavaliers win an NBA Championship in 2016, Atkinson is optimistic that the team is coming together strong.

“I just see Theo (Pinson), DeAndre (Jordan), the communication is better because he talks a ton and his aggressiveness, he’s pushing the other guys,” Atkinson said.

With AP reports

Robert Pozarycki