On Wednesday, Sean Kilpatrick became the 227th player this year to have three-straight games with 20-plus points.Why is this significant? Well, it’s the first time in his short career that he’s been able to score more than 20 in that elusive third game. Kilpatrick’s 27 points against the Atlanta Hawks came in a heart-breaking loss, but it was the second time this year where he eclipsed 25, and it was also one of his most efficient outings.
The final line was this: 27 points on 8-of-14 shooting overall, 3-of-7 from three and 8-of-9 from the charity stripe. Both games before this one didn’t feature the versatility, and Atlanta is far from a weak defense. By most accounts, the Hawks are top 10 at stopping opponents, and they only get better as the game speeds up.
Brooklyn loves to get out and run, and Wednesday’s contest turned into a track meet quickly. By night’s end, the Hawks had held the Nets to a 97.5 offensive rating and Kilpatrick was the only one to have consistent success.
Kilpatrick got off to a slow start; not because he was missing shots, but because he wasn’t aggressive early on. He played a bit more than half of the first period and connected on the only shot he attempted — a spot-up three.
There’s nothing special here. Spencer Dinwiddie got just deep enough off the Trevor Booker screen for Taurean Prince to collapse.
If I’m game planning against the Nets, I have no issue having my guys sag off the shooters to protect the paint. Brooklyn makes a lot of threes but not at an efficient clip, and Kilpatrick isn’t even at 36 percent from downtown. Nevertheless, this was foreshadowing.
It’s becoming clear that Kilpatrick is best suited as someone who primarily works off of the ball. He’s shown the ability to create for himself on occasion, but it’s not consistent for a couple of reasons.
His ball handling skills are serviceable, and he isn’t exactly an explosive athlete. Instead, Kenny Atkinson is finding ways to get him involved where he doesn’t need to be a creator, and it’s much easier with Jeremy Lin back in the lineup.
To kick off his four-point second period, Kilpatrick buried a nice 20-footer.
Trevor Booker sets a rugged screen after handing the ball off.
Chance the Rapper Kent Bazemore, a solid on-ball defender, can’t fight around the pick and leaves Paul Millsap to fend for himself.
The cushion is just enough, and I’m not sure why Millsap didn’t make him drive to the basket. Not only is Millsap mobile and a great shot-blocker, but he’s also got Dwight Howard already rotating to help.
There’s the possibility that the ball gets kicked to Lopez in the corner, but Sefolosha should be able to cut that off as Kilpatrick drives baseline.
Regardless, many props to Kilpatrick for not forcing the issue despite being a reluctant jump shooter. He saw the space and capitalized, and it’s small decisions like these that help build confidence.
It’s fitting that the highlight comes right after saying he’s not able to create for himself. But I digress.
His second and final bucket of the quarter came on a broken play.
I have no idea what this was. Kilpatrick clearly wasn’t ready for the pass after running Tim Hardaway Jr. in a circle, and the errant delivery makes me want to believe that the pass was thrown on accident.
This play was a designed set by the Nets. Lopez and Kilpatrick already established position while Quincy Acy, Jeremy Lin and Caris LeVert hang out on top; it’s a 3-2 Hi-Lo set, but Brooklyn is overloading the right side.
The baseline curl is the first option, and, if that doesn’t work, they have Lopez in one-on-one coverage on the block.
Once Kilpatrick turns the corner, no one touches the pass, and the recovery by the Nets is possible because of the spacing created by Lin and Acy up top. Lopez aides a bit by bumping Howard out of the way just enough to give Kilpatrick space to get a floater off.
The Nets were up 50-46 heading into halftime, and Kilpatrick caught fire in Hotlanta once the clock started ticking on quarter number three.
It began with about three minutes left, and the Nets used Acy and Dinwiddie as the screeners for a double screen on the right side.
Thabo Sefolosha had plenty of trouble trying to fight over Dinwiddie and Acy, and the Hawks don’t do a great job of helping their screened teammate. By the time Kilpatrick got Booker’s pass, he’s a step ahead of his defender, and Booker sets the third and final screen on Sefolosha.
Notice how Ersan Ilyasova makes the greatest effort in the history of closeouts to contest this three.
It’s shooting practice at that point, and NBA players are going to hit open jump shots if they’re served up like that.
The next bucket was one of those rare instances where he created for himself.
Acy, who’s emerged as a tremendous screen-setter, just barely brushed Sefolosha causing him to get behind on the play. From there, he tried to get a back tap and gave Kilpatrick a one-on-one chance against Millsap.
He’s forced into a fallaway jumper and gets bailed out by the refs. From the angle above, you can’t see the foul and Millsap is in a great position to contest the shot. Kilpatrick’s able to stay on balance just enough to convert the basket.
At this point, the Hawks have switched Prince onto Brooklyn’s hot hand with the hope of bothering him on the perimeter.
With less than 90 seconds left in the period, Kilpatrick brought the ball down and hoisted up a heat check three with Ilyasova and Prince within arm’s reach.
“He just told me to shoot my shot and don’t pay attention to those who say not to,” said Kilpatrick after getting asked what Dion Waiters texted him before tip-off.
Okay, that didn’t happen, but it’s something that should.
At some point, the gas leaves the tank. For Kilpatrick, it happened to be in the final period of a close game. He connected on just two of his five shots despite posting a team-high seven points.
To cut the lead to one, the third-year pro buried a long two after Prince attempted to go under a Hollis-Jefferson screen. From there, Ilyasova sagged off to prevent getting beat but it was a step too far, and he got a jump shot nailed over him.
I can’t think of a reason why Prince wouldn’t go over the screen since most of his buckets came from the perimeter.
His final field goal came in transition after Dennis Schroder and Hardaway collided with each other. Lin, who might’ve gotten away with a push, scooped up the loose ball and dished off to Kilpatrick who finished a tough shot over Millsap.
It’s fitting that he was involved with the game-sealing play. The Nets had a chance to tie, but Schroder came from behind and poked the ball away, and I’m not going to post that because it hurts me too much.