The Atlanta Hawks did not play their best basketball in either of the first two games against the Brooklyn Nets. Little did we know that the worst game of the series was yet to come in Game 3, as the Hawks struggled to a comical point offensively on the way to a 91-83 defeat that ended any notion of a sweep.
In simple terms, the first quarter was one of the ugliest of the season for the Hawks. Al Horford opened the scoring with a basket, but following that, Brooklyn scored the next 11 points to claim their biggest lead of the series. Atlanta would show some life in the middle stages of the quarter, putting together a 9-2 run that forced a timeout by the Nets, but that was the end of the "bright spots" during the first 12 minutes.
Bojan Bogdanovic had a fantastic first quarter for the Nets, scoring 11 points on only 5 field goal attempts, and no one on the Hawks side fully matched that level of play. Brooklyn closed the quarter on a 12-2 spurt to claim a 15-point lead, and Atlanta shot just 29% from the floor while committing five turnovers.
The second quarter was, mercifully, an improvement for the road team. Defensively, the energy level rose considerably, and the results followed, with Brooklyn shooting just 6 for 22 from the floor on the way to only 16 points. On the offensive end, Paul Millsap came alive with 7 second-quarter points, and as a group, the Hawks shot 47% from the floor, which felt like Christmas morning in comparison to the first quarter.
Still, the overall performance in the first half left a lot to be desired. The Hawks committed 10 turnovers, including several instances where the players simply couldn't catch passes, and the point guard duo of Dennis Schröder and Jeff Teague combined to make only 2 of their field goal attempts with five turnovers against just three assists. Atlanta trailed by a 47-40 margin after 24 minutes, and in short, that felt like a "win" given the spotty level of play.
After a back-and-forth start to the third quarter, the Hawks (thankfully) started to cook a bit. Atlanta raced to a 9-0 run capped by back-to-back fast break baskets, and that enabled the visitors to claim their first lead since 2-0 at 60-58 with four minutes remaining in the period.
Seemingly on cue, though, the Nets responded with a 18-0 (!) run of their own after Atlanta snatched a four-point lead. That allowed Brooklyn to claim a 14-point lead, and all of the damage done by the Hawks (and then some) vanished during the course of a highly frustrating sequence of missed shots (11 in a row) and uneven overall play.
That seven-minute period of utter disaster ended with a Mike Scott tip-in with 7:45 to play, and Scott followed that with another basket to force a Nets timeout with 6:38 remaining. The Hawks were within ten points and (somehow) still alive in the game, despite the overwhelming feeling to the contrary.
Following the timeout, though, Brooklyn put things away. Jeff Teague game unglued with multiple forced takes, the Nets got big shots from Brook Lopez and Bojan Bogdanovic, and Atlanta never really threatened to steal the game. The final "nail in the coffin" came on a whirling basket by Lopez with 2:05 remaining, but this one was over long before that.
DeMarre Carroll was the (lone) bright spot in this game, and it was nice to see him bounce back after an ugly night in Game 2. Carroll finished with 22 points (a playoff career-best) on 9 for 12 shooting, and without him, the offense would have been in further disarray.
That is the end of the positives. As a team, the Hawks shot 35.6% from the floor (20% from 3-point distance) and committed 16 turnovers. Jeff Teague (4-13 FG, 0-3 3-PT, 4 turnovers) was woeful, Dennis Schröder (1-9 FG) was worse, and even the frontcourt pairing of Al Horford and Paul Millsap combined to make only 10 of their 30 field goal attempts. To be honest, the list of negatives was quite long, and this is a game tape that no one will enjoy watching on Sunday.
The Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets will reunite on Monday evening at the Barclays Center, and hopefully, the visiting team will be able to make shots and/or catch passes when Game 4 gets underway.