Brooklyn Nets: 3 things to watch in critical battle with Hornets

Brooklyn Nets Joe Harris. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets Joe Harris. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets Spencer Dinwiddie. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

1. Dinwiddie’s return big for Brooklyn

Spencer Dinwiddie has been cleared to return after missing 14 games — including all of February — recovering from surgery on his right thumb.

The Nets were 6-8 with Dinwiddie sidelined and were 4-6 in February, their first losing month since a 5-10 November. Brooklyn was a combined 20-10 in December and January as they soared into the Eastern Conference playoff hunt.

The challenge now for the Nets is to remain in that hunt with a very difficult finishing schedule ahead.

The matchup with the Charlotte Hornets Friday night is the second of seven straight games for the Nets against teams with sub-.500 records before they begin a stretch on March 13 that will feature 11 of 12 games against teams better than break-even.

The lone exception during that stretch is their scheduled March 22 game at the Los Angeles Lakers, who are currently 30-31.

Dinwiddie confirmed his return to active status via social media on Thursday:

The ever-confident fifth-year guard will have no restrictions when he returns, with coach Kenny Atkinson telling the media Thursday via Mike Mazzeo of the New York Post that his top reserve will be able to play in back-to-backs. The Nets visit the Miami Heat on Saturday.

"“I don’t think he’ll play 40 minutes [Friday]. We’ll still kind of build him up. He looked really good in the scrimmage [Thursday].”"

Dinwiddie dismissed the idea of any lingering effects from the injury, surgery and recovery.

"“I ain’t coming back to make any excuses. I’m ready to play.”"

It will be the first time since Nov. 12 that Dinwiddie, D’Angelo Russell and Caris LeVert will be available in the same game. The trio has played just 90 minutes together this season.

Dinwiddie last played on Jan. 23 in a win over the Orlando Magic. LeVert returned on Feb. 8 against the Chicago Bulls from a 42-game absence due to a dislocated right foot. Dinwiddie is looking forward to having the band back together.

"“D’Lo is obviously playing at a high level. Caris is working his way back into form. “They’re going to do what they do and our focus and our sights are set on the playoffs and trying to win as many games as possible, trying to be that team that not only makes it, but strikes a little fear into some of those top seeds’ hearts.”"

In 49 games this season, Dinwiddie is averaging 17.2 points, 5.0 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 28.6 minutes per game and shooting 46.1 percent overall and 36.6 percent on 5.3 3-point attempts per game. Brooklyn is 26-23 in those games.

Against Charlotte, Dinwiddie did not play Saturday and had a very mixed bag of results in the teams’ first two meetings back in late December.

In the Nets’ double-overtime win at Barclays Center on Dec. 26, Dinwiddie scored 37 points in 41 minutes, setting new career-highs with 29 shot attempts, seven 3-pointers made and 16 deep balls attempted. He also had a season-high 11 assists.

Two nights later in Charlotte, however, the Hornets neutralized Dinwiddie, holding him to a season-low three points in 28 minutes on 1-of-7 shooting. He hit 1-of-4 from long range and had five assists, three rebounds and a steal.