While the rest of the NBA’s bottom feeders are tanking, the Nets are trying. And Brooklyn’s strong finish to a sorry season continued, beating the Bulls 114-105 in their home finale Monday at Barclays Center.
The Nets (28-53) have their first three-game winning streak of the season, thanks to a career-high 41 points from Allen Crabbe.
Brooklyn is 7-5 in its last dozen games, and 5-2 in its last seven. The Nets moved past Chicago and now sit above seven teams in the standings. It’s hardly anything to brag about, but without their own draft pick until 2019, the Nets need legitimate progress, not lottery positioning.
“I think our guys got through those trying times when you’re in tough games all the time and you don’t come out on top. I think that bodes well for the future,” said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson. “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.’ ”
It’s a sign of how hard offense has been to come by that Monday marked only the second time all season the Nets had three 20-point scorers. Shockingly, it came with small forward DeMarre Carroll, Caris LeVert and Joe Harris all out with injuries.
Crabbe, who hit 8-of-11 from 3-point range, was just three points shy of the highest total by a Net since the franchise moved to Brooklyn. D’Angelo Russell had 21 points, 11 assists and six rebounds. Spencer Dinwiddie was back in the lineup due to the injuries, and added 20 points.
They close the season Wednesday at Boston and with the Celtics — already without Kyrie Irving — locked into the second seed in the Eastern Conference, it’s entirely possible they rest a number of players.
Brooklyn’s recent hot shooting has been because of ball movement, and the Nets continued that Monday. They had their third straight game dishing out 30-plus assists, the first time they’ve done that since 2005-06.
Of course, playing the sorry Bulls (27-54) didn’t hurt.
Just as they had in Chicago, the Bulls trapped the Nets hard. And just like in Saturday’s blowout, the Nets made them pay. They blitzed Russell out high and he broke through. Facing Lauri Markkanen, he crossed over the bigger man once, twice, thrice, and going by for a layup that ignited the crowd. He found Crabbe with a bullet pass on the next possession.
Ex-Net Sean Kilpatrick led the Bulls with 16.