Much like Wednesday's game against Cleveland, Atlanta's 93-84 win over the New Jersey Nets was much more of a struggle than the season records suggest but Atlanta found a way to survive and start a three games in three days stretch with a win. In what has become the theme of the season, the Hawks were without another key member of their rotation in the game as Zaza Pachulia sat out with a sore Achilles.
Without Pachulia, Larry Drew went with Jason Collins which did little in the way of replacing the production that the team had been getting at the center position. Before the game, Drew talked about the decision to go with Collins in the starting lineup.
"He's been a starter before and he gives us a defensive presence. I like getting him back into the starting lineup. I hate doing it under these conditions but at least he gets back into a rhythm against the starters. Since he's just getting back I think it will be getting him back with that starting group. I'm excited to see how he responds to it."
Atlanta struggled on the boards without Pachulia and that along with the play of Deron Williams enabled the Nets to hang virtually the entire game until the Hawks dug in defensively in the fourth quarter. The Nets closed the third on a run and took a 69-62 lead over the Hawks into the fourth.
The Hawks outscored the Nets 31-15 in the fourth with Josh Smith leading the way from the post. The Nets sent double teams at both Smith and Joe Johnson anytime they got the ball in the post but Josh did a good job in the fourth quarter of attacking quickly and making the correct pass out anytime the double team did come.
Smith finished with another outstanding line of 30 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal for good measure in 40 minutes of action. Jeff Teague added 17 points on 5-8 shooting from the field and also aded six assists without a single turnover. He struggled early defensively against the Nets' pick and roll but was able to play the passing lanes well and got a couple of steals and fast break points that seemed to energize him.
Joe Johnson had a quiet 16 points and five assists and was the recipient of many a double team as New Jersey wasn't interested in letting Johnson get in a rhythm. Credit Joe for not forcing the issue which led to a many an open look for Kirk Hinrich and Marvin Williams.
Hinrich hit 4-6 from three-point range and 5-8 overall for 14 points and three assists. Marvin Williams returned from a five-game absence to play 26 minutes off the bench and score 11 points and grab six boards. Ivan Johnson also returned to the lineup and was a mixed bag finishing with five points and seven rebounds but also had four of Atlanta's 11 turnovers on the night.
Deron Williams looked like he was going to single handedly keep the Nets in the game the same way Kyrie Irving did for the Cavs on Wednesday. Larry Drew used a combination of Teague and Hinrich on Williams for much of the game with Kirk getting the call down the stretch. Atlanta held Williams to just two points in the fourth quarter which was as much the difference in this game as anything else.