Mike Budenholzer and Kenny Atkinson are friends from their time coaching together with the Atlanta Hawks.
A few times a year, they put their friendship aside to compete against the other and figure out how to get a win for their respective teams.
Monday night in Atlanta will be one of those instances as the Hawks get together with the Brooklyn Nets for the back end of a home-and-home set.
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Budenholzer took over in Atlanta in 2013 and retained Atkinson, who joined the club as an assistant in 2012. Together, they helped the Hawks reach the playoffs, highlighted by 60 wins three years ago.
The success eventually led Atkinson to be named as the coach of the Nets in May 2016 to help oversee a rebuilding project. While Atkinson is 28-76 with the Nets, he has split the six meetings with his close friend.
Brooklyn handed Atlanta one of its 17 losses on Oct. 22 when it posted a 116-104 victory. The Hawks handed the Nets one of their 14 losses Saturday with a 114-102 victory.
The win in Brooklyn was Atlanta’s fifth in 22 games as it begins a rebuilding project, and the Hawks are looking to get consecutive wins for the first time all season.
“I think he understands the big picture,” Atkinson said before Saturday’s game. “He’s a smart coach. He understands their situation. They are a united group over there. I’ve been there. I know he was on board with their plan and I know he’s a patient guy. I know he loves development, so sure I think it’s a great challenge for him. I think he’s the perfect coach. I saw him firsthand do a great job with young players.”
Besides the shared time coaching, another common denominator with both teams is DeMarre Carroll. Carroll was coming off consecutive 20-point games in his career for the second time but was 3-of-12 Saturday and finished with nine points.
“DeMarre has a special place,” Budenholzer said before the game. “The relationship he and I have is something I value a lot. I watch and see the scores, see when he makes winning plays, see when he makes big plays down the stretch. I’m not surprised at all. I saw it for several years in Atlanta. He knows Kenny well, he knows a lot of the assistants well. I think he’s in a good comfortable place.”
Carroll was with Budenholzer for two seasons before signing with Toronto. He was reunited with Atkinson in a trade and scored 17 in the first meeting.
The Nets are 7-3 when Carroll gets at least 15 points and his sub-par performance was among many for the Nets, who lost for the fifth time in seven games.
“They came out and basically kicked our butt,” Carroll said. “We didn’t have any energy. We came out lackadaisical and we knew coming off of a three-game road trip, this tends to happen, and we didn’t do what we were supposed to do.
“No matter who we put out there, we just couldn’t get it. But the beauty of it, we play them again and hopefully we can get them on the road.”
Spencer Dinwiddie led the Nets with 15 points in a game where Brooklyn only scored 24 points in the paint and committed 19 turnovers. The good news in one of Brooklyn’s more underwhelming showings was Allen Crabbe (back) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (sprained left ankle) returned from brief absences.
Crabbe started while Hollis-Jefferson came off the bench, though it’s possible the third-year forward might return to the starting lineup after playing 21 minutes Saturday.
The Hawks played their first game after losing centers Dewayne Dedmon (leg) and John Collins (shoulder) to injuries on consecutive days. Collins started at center for Dedmon Thursday but injured his shoulder and is out two to three weeks.
His absence created an opportunity for Miles Plumlee to start at center in his third game back from a quad injury.
“It’s just a good win for us and we turn around and play Brooklyn again on Monday,” Budenholzer said. “So, we have to get our minds right and see if we can get better between now and Monday,”
Dennis Schroder led the Hawks with 24 points while Luke Babbitt lead the reserves with a season high 20 points in 20 minutes.
The teams split two meetings in Atlanta last season.
Schroder scored 31 points in Atlanta’s 110-105 win on March 8. The Hawks shot 34.7 percent, missed 22 of 27 3-pointers and committed 20 turnovers in a 107-92 loss on March 26.