Atlantic Notes: Nets, Tatum, Brunson, Niang

An eight-game winning streak has the Nets feeling extremely good about their place in the NBA’s hierarchy, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Brooklyn has moved into fourth in the East after a slow start and can climb into third with a win tonight at Cleveland.

“We’re coming for everybody, man,” Nic Claxton said after the Nets routed the Bucks on Friday night. “We’ve had a lot of disappointment over this season, these past few seasons. But things are rolling. We’ve just got to keep it going.” 

Part of that confidence comes from a defense that has clearly improved, Lewis adds in a separate story. Having Ben Simmons alongside Claxton and Kevin Durant gives Brooklyn three starters with seven-foot wingspans and plenty of options to handle high-scoring wings as well as big men.

“Yeah, I think we answered a lot of those questions,” coach Jacque Vaughn said Friday. “Being able to have multiple bodies like we talked about around Giannis (Antetokounmpo), seven turnovers for him.” 

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Celtics forward Jayson Tatum may be the clear frontrunner in the MVP race after a 41-point outburst in Sunday’s win over Milwaukee, states Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Tatum told reporters, including Jamal Collier of ESPN, that he enjoys the Christman Day spotlight. “I’ve said many times how much I love being here and what it means to play on Christmas — sixth year in a row and something I never want to take for granted,” Tatum said. “As a kid, that was part of the tradition: Eat, be with family, watch all the games and try to envision myself playing out there one day. Now I get to do that.”
  • The injury that Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson suffered late in Sunday’s game could prevent him from playing in Tuesday’s return to Dallas, per Mark W. Sanchez of The New York Post. Brunson appeared to be holding his right hip before he exited the game with 4:42 left in the fourth quarter, but the team didn’t provide any details. Brunson didn’t talk to the media afterward, and coach Tom Thibodeau wasn’t able to offer any information other than saying he doesn’t believe it’s an injury that Brunson was dealing with prior to the game.
  • Sixers forward Georges Niang credits a verbal jab from coach Doc Rivers for inspiring his 12-point fourth quarter in Sunday’s win at New York, according to Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. After Rivers asked Niang if he would ever “make a freaking shot … or are we just on vacation?” he responded by hitting four three-pointers in that final frame. “We have a good friendly banter, going back and forth,” Niang said. “I think when you have a coach that can challenge you to continuously be better, that kind of motivates me to continue to keep digging deeper and being better.”
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