The Atlanta Hawks waited three games for their offense to return. They scored 115 points in Monday's Game 4 and still lost thanks to a turn back the clock performance by Brooklyn's Deron Williams and more struggles from their bench. What was thought to be a mismatch is now a series. Not many people gave Brooklyn much of a chance against the No. 1 seeded Hawks but here we are with things tied up 2-2 as the series shifts back to Atlanta for Game 5.
So what went wrong? Quite a lot actually although it might be hard to see with a cursory look at the box score. Atlanta shot 48 percent from the field which was their first 40+ percent performance since Game 1. They out rebounded the Nets 55-40 and grabbed 18 offensive rebounds. They had a 60-44 edge in points in the paint and an 18-12 advantage in second chance points. Yet they still lost.
Turnovers played a huge part again in Game 4. Atlanta turned the ball over 18 times leading to 26 points for the Nets. Jeff Teague had his best game of the series finishing with 20 points and 11 assists but he and backup Dennis Schröder combined for nine turnovers. Atlanta's bench has been a strength for much of the season but has struggled to hold leads and was on the floor when the Nets again built momentum in the fourth quarter.
The Hawks appeared to be in control when the third quarter ended leading 82-74. However, Brooklyn unleashed an 11-3 run to start the fourth quarter to tie things up at 85-85. By that point the starters had returned but they too struggled to slow down Brooklyn's charge.
Atlanta continued to double team Joe Johnson on pick and rolls and in the post. The Nets took advantage with quick passes into Brook Lopez and then out to wide open shooters at the three-point arc. Brooklyn shot 55 percent from the field in the fourth quarter and was 7-of-8 from three-point range in the fourth quarter alone. Many of those attempts were wide open after Atlanta's defense had overcompensated for Johnson or Lopez. In many ways it felt like Atlanta was fortunate just to get the game to overtime.
Things didn't improve for the Hawks in the extra session. Brooklyn made 5-of-8 field goal attempts in overtime. Atlanta took a 111-108 lead with a three-pointer from DeMarre Carroll but the Nets answered back with a three-point play from Lopez. Horford scored to regain the lead but Bojan Bogdanovic knocked down another uncontested three to put Brooklyn in front for good with 1:25 remaining.
It is a disappointing result for Atlanta on a number of levels. They had ample opportunities to step up and take control of the game. DeMarre Carroll again performed at a high level with 20 points and nine rebounds. Teague logged a double-double and carried the Hawks down the stretch of the fourth quarter. Al Horford had a big third quarter to give Atlanta the lead. Yet as the game wound down they seemed to unravel. Atlanta showed great discipline throughout the regular season but faltered late in Game 4 on both ends of the floor.
The player that did step up was Brooklyn's Deron Williams who came into Game 4 much-maligned after struggling for much of the series. He responded in a big way with a game-high 35 points including seven made three-pointers.
If you look at this from a glass half full perspective, this is why you want homecourt advantage in the playoffs. Two of the next three games will be played at Philips Arena where the Hawks have been hard to beat this season. However, the flip side of that is that Atlanta still has yet to put a complete game together in these playoffs and while they have been searching for themselves, Brooklyn has found their game and are now playing with confidence and appear poised to pull a big upset.
For the Hawks, the entire season comes down to Game 5.
Game 5 will be Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Philips Arena and will be televised by TNT and Fox Sports South. Game 6 will be Friday at 8 p.m. in Brooklyn and will be televised on ESPN.