Brooklyn Nets: D’Angelo Russell a major factor during 3-game win streak

Thanks in part to D’Angelo Russell, the Brooklyn Nets are playing some good basketball. As difficult as it may be to believe, they are in contention for a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.

The Brooklyn Nets concluded their 2017-18 campaign with a 28-54 record — good enough for the 12th-best record in the Eastern Conference. Not only that, but it marked the third straight season in which they failed to reach the 30-win plateau.

Needless to say, it is of little surprise the team hasn’t made it to the playoffs since 2014-15. In spite of the team’s shortcomings in recent years, Brooklyn has managed to turn things around during the first half of this season.

For starters, the Nets posted a respectable 9-6 record during the month of December. Additionally, with a 117-100 road win over the Chicago Bulls this past weekend, Brooklyn notched its third consecutive win.

Even more to the point, the Nets’ recent win was the team’s 12th victory in its last 15 outings, which represents their best 15-game run since the team moved to Brooklyn back in 2012. Taking that into consideration, this is a pretty impressive run, to say the least.

One of the major reasons why the Nets are playing such good basketball of late is the solid play of D’Angelo Russell, who was acquired in a trade with the Los Angles Lakers prior to the start of the 2017-18 season.

Here’s a quick look at how Russell has contributed over the past few games.

In an outing against the Charlotte Hornets back on Dec. 28, Russell poured in 33 points on 13-of-24 shooting from the field, to go along with four rebounds and a pair of assists. Next up, in the Nets’ 126-121 win over the New Orleans Pelicans, he scored 22 points, handed out 13 assists and grabbed five rebounds.

A few nights later against the Memphis Grizzlies, Russell posted his second straight double-double, finishing with a stat line of 23 points, 10 assists and four rebounds. This was his fourth double-double of the season.

In the team’s recent win over the Bulls, Russell scored 28 points on 10-for-19 shooting to go along with five assists and four rebounds.

He also connected on six of his 14 attempts from beyond the arc. This outing marked the fourth straight game in which Russell has scored at least 20 points, and he is averaging 26.5 points and 7.5 assists per outing during that span. As impressive as Russell has been during this recent stretch of games, he’s actually been playing well all season.

In fact, through the first 40 games of the season, he is averaging 18.4 points and 6.4 assists per outing — both of which are career highs. While his overall shooting efficiency (42.3 percent) isn’t anything to be overly excited about, Russell is knocking down 35.7 percent of his looks from 3-point range, and yes, both of these marks are career highs as well.

“D’Angelo is just taking it to a whole other level,” teammate DeMarre Carroll told the Washington Post. “He’s getting everybody involved, he’s scoring the ball when he needs to.

“He’s got a complete game right now and I think that’s what we need from him in order to go far and go deep.”

As of right now, the Nets have reached 20 wins at the midway point of the season and are currently seventh in the conference playoff race. Whether they can sustain this level of play the rest of the way remains to be seen.

What is a certainty is the Nets have developed into a squad that opponents can’t overlook and maybe, just maybe, they’ll still be in contention for one of the lower playoff seeds at the end of the season.