• Erik Slater

Spencer Dinwiddie sparks offensive explosion over 5-game win streak

The Brooklyn Nets have won five straight games for the first time since the 2014-2015 season.

The win streak comes on the heels of an eight-game losing streak and includes impressive wins over the league-leading Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers.

During the streak, the Nets are averaging 122.8 points per game and Spencer Dinwiddie has proven to be the key player in Brooklyn’s offensive success.

Brooklyn scored 144 points in Sunday’s win over the Atlanta Hawks, the most ever scored by the Nets at the Barclays Center and the second-most in a regulation game in franchise history.

Dinwiddie has been the driving force in Brooklyn’s offensive explosion, averaging 24.8 points per game on 52 percent shooting from the field over the last five games, all off the bench. The third-year Net scored a career-high 39 points in Wednesday’s win over the 76ers.

Brooklyn signed the point guard to a three-year, $34.3 million contract extension following the career day.

The contract extension is Dinwiddie’s first real payday in a remarkable journey from a career-threatening ACL injury during his junior year at Colorado to a D-League player to a Sixth Man of the Year candidate.

Dinwiddie has shined in his role this season, averaging 17.2 points and 5.0 assists per game. The 26-year-old has a superb ability to get to the basket, consistently using his explosive first step, length and athleticism to finish around the rim.

Since Caris LeVert went down with a dislocated right foot, Dinwiddie has been the difference maker for Brooklyn in the second half of tight games.

Coach Kenny Atkinson of Dinwiddie, via Brian Lewis of the New York Post:

“Obviously, he’s our engine right now, especially in the second half.”

The Nets could have waited until the offseason and used Dinwiddie’s Bird rights to go over the cap to re-sign him after using the rest of their space, as they did with Joe Harris, but general manager Sean Marks didn’t want to risk allowing him to test the market.

Marks’ urgency to get the deal done shows the value Brooklyn places on Dinwiddie.

D’Angelo Russell also had among his best performances of the season in Sunday’s 144-127 win over the Hawks. The 22-year-old scored 32 points with seven assists and six rebounds on 13-of-19 shooting from the field, with zero turnovers.

Russell has improved this season, averaging 17.5 points per game and 6.0 assists per game on 35.9 percent shooting from 3. However, he has still struggled to perform with the consistency necessary to garner a multi-year contract.

The former second-overall pick is set to be a restricted free agent this offseason. While the window to extend Russell closed on Oct. 15, Marks could trade him at the deadline for draft picks or clear his $21.1 million cap hold by renouncing his rights.

While consistency has been an issue, Russell has shown significant improvement this season. His abilities to create his own shot in the mid-range and find others in transition and half-court sets are special.

If the Nets can re-sign the guard for a reasonable price to keep him and Dinwiddie, it could be a big win long-term.

Both Dinwiddie and Russell have value on the trade market right now (though Dinwiddie can’t be traded until June 14, but who’s to say that value won’t be exponentially higher in two or three years?

By retaining both at the right price, Brooklyn can continue to watch the young guards develop while having the ability to use one of their favorable contracts as a trade chip down the line.

Rookie forward Rodions Kurucs has provided a spark for Brooklyn throughout the win streak as well. The Latvian made his way into the lineup earlier in the month to the delight of Nets fans.

The 20-year-old received his first start in Friday night’s win over the Washington Wizards, posting a career-high 15 points with six rebounds in 30 minutes of action. Kurucs is averaging 13 points per game on 61.9 percent shooting from the field over Brooklyn’s last three games.

The second-round pick has a high motor and versatility when on the floor. At 6-foot-9, Kurucs uses his length to disrupt passing lanes, challenge shots, and rebound on both ends of the floor.

He has also shown a deceiving explosiveness using long strides when attacking the basket along with the ability to shoot from 3.

“Just all around his energy, his athleticism is a big plus. He just keeps doing it, keeps surprising,” Atkinson said of the rookie.

Kurucs has been a pleasant surprise thus far and appears to be in line for a substantial role for the rest of the season.

The five-game win streak has brought Brooklyn’s record to 13-18, two games behind the Orlando Magic for the eighth spot in the standings.

Kenny Atkinson’s squad will remain home Tuesday night as LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers make their way to Brooklyn.