Quick Thought: Jeff Teague's playoff run against Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls? Not a fluke.
The Nets came into Atlanta and looked like the hungrier, more desperate team. The things that they can do well, they did well in the Highlight Factory Friday night and played the Hawks dead even for the entire night.
Deron Williams woke up in the second half and attacked the lane and the basket relentlessly. The result was a 19 point, five assist second half that pushed the Nets to the brink of an upset.
Joining him in the second half assault was the player that hurt the Hawks in Newark, Marshon Brooks, who scored 21 on 8-13 shooting.
Also, the Nets got their offensive rebounding groove back, getting 15 of those nuggets of second chances.
The Hawks made do by keeping the Nets just off the lead from the early part of the second quarter through the final buzzer on good offensive rebounding themselves, shooting 52 percent from the 2nd quarter to the finish and making 14 more free throws than the Nets.
Down the stretch, Jeff Teague and Joe Johnson made big shots, the former capping a terrific night of gashing the Nets defense and exposing the lack of help said defense provides and the latter adding a classic Iso-Joe runner in the lane (also with no help D to contest) to give the Hawks a four point lead with 20 seconds to play.
When the Nets got the ball at midcourt after that Joe Johnson basket, the Brooks, the Nets rookie couldn't get it into Deron Williams, who was being shadowed by Johnson and so he called a timeout --- except the Nets didn't have one, so Johnson knocked down that technical free throw and then two more after being fouled on the inbounds, giving Joe five points in 2 game seconds and the Hawks the game.
The condensed schedule may already be wearing on the Atlanta faithful. Not only did the team come out less enthusiastic than their guests, but the Highlight Factory didn't ever seem to have their passion flowing in a game one could speculate they expected to win. It had almost a preseason vibe to the game in the first quarter, and the energy on the court reflected that.
As stated in the above summary, whatever the Hawks did well in New Jersey to neutralize Deron Williams and mitigate the Nets' prowess on the offensive glass, they could replicate that Friday night at home. In Newark, Williams shot 3-11 with a single assist against six turnovers. Friday night, Williams was 9-18, with six assists and two turnovers. The Nets had nine offensive rebounds against 49 missed shots at home (18%), but 15 on 44 missed shots (38%) in Philips Arena.
Joe Johnson played a steady 34 minutes, shooting 6-13/2-4, including the clutch Iso-Runner with 20 seconds left. Also, in a game where the Hawks missed 11 free throws, Joe didn't miss a single one in the fourth quarter, drilling seven of seven and helping to seal the game.
Josh Smith had one of those nights --- the type we're not supposed to mention to him. He looked out of position defensively, took awful shots, didn't give the ball to the point guard on run outs and didn't looked energetic at all during his 34 minutes on the floor unless he was calling for the ball in the post. Nine points, six rebounds, and three assists are less than stellar statistical contributions for 34 minutes, as Josh would probably be the first to notice and admit.
In a game against a team with no shot blockers or any athletic presence whatsoever for the Nets, it's shocking that Al Horford would get only one official shot attempted (he made it) in his first 14.5 minutes of game time, especially given the malaise the offense was stuck in for most of the night. Only in the third quarter, when matched up with Mehmet Okur, did the Hawks make a concerted effort to give the ball to Al. He scored seven of his 12 points in the quarter and took six of his eight shots there, too. Statistical Oddity: All five of Horford's rebounds were offensive --- not a single defensive rebound, though as mentioned above, he did knock a key defensive rebound out of Humphries' hands and into Marvin Williams to give the Hawks the ball up two with 38 seconds left.
Game Balls/Three Stars:
Jeff Teague scored 22 points on 12 shots and attempted nary a three point shot. He got to the basket so consistently, Sundiata Gaines and Deron Williams could sue their teammates for lack of support. Often Jeff would pick a side of the lane, drive around the Nets' guards and have nothing between he and a layup. Though the Hawks didn't use Horford to attack the lack of shot blocking presence, they made up for it by turning Teague loose on the lane. 9-12, team high six assists and only two turnovers. Teague was the reason the Hawks got it done against the Nets.
With Al Horford somewhat in foul trouble tonight, and not just the pretend foul trouble Larry Drew sometimes puts Al in, Zaza Pachulia stepped up with a fine game, especially in a second quarter that helped the Hawks get the tiniest distance between they and the Nets. In an approximately eight and a half minute stretch, Zaza put up eight points and six rebounds. The Hawks outscored the Nets by eight with Pachullia on the floor during that stretch, and by four when he came in for his second extended shift due to Horford's fouls. He was 3-6 from the field and 5-6 from the line, throwing in a classic looking towards the other basket while flipping the ball over his head while making contact "shooting" foul. He finished with 11 points and eight boards in 22 minutes.
Marvin Williams continues to have a positive effect on the court, scoring 11 points and getting six rebounds in about half a game. He was the only starter to post a positive +/- for the game and grabbed a critical defensive rebound (after Horford had knocked another potential offensive rebound out of Kris Humphries' hands) immediately preceding Joe Johnson's Iso-Runner in the last minute of the game. Marvin also had the play of the night, channeling his inner Jamal Crawford at the halftime buzzer by catching the inbounds pass with three seconds left, splitting three Nets at halfcourt with a pirouette and tossing in the buzzer beater.
700 p.m. EST game against the Rockets, in Houston before getting New Year's Day and then heading to Miami Tuesday night at 730 p.m, to take on the Heat.
Here's the recap from Nets Daily, the SBNation Nets Blog.
Hoopdata and Popcorn Machine have their box scores up.
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