Nets need to steal one in Atlanta
Hope to Climb Back into Series with Game 2 Victory over Hawks
There are no moral victories at this time of year.
The Brooklyn Nets, losers of all five meetings against the Atlanta Hawks thus far this season, including Sunday’s first-round playoff opener at Philips Arena, can no longer be content just to be competitive against the Eastern Conference’s top seed.
“As I told the team after the game, if you don’t believe you can play in this series, you should believe it now,” first-year Brooklyn head coach Lionel Hollins revealed following his team’s 99-92 Game 1 defeat in Atlanta.
“We played hard,” he added. “I had no fault with the effort of our guys. We just have to be smarter and execute better.”
Execute, or be eliminated.
Believe or be gone.
Those have to be the Nets’ mantras as they try to even the best-of-7 series in Game 2 Wednesday, and return Downtown for Saturday’s Game 3 with a legitimate shot at stunning the mighty Hawks, and perhaps even advancing to the conference semifinals for a second consecutive season.
Brooklyn can’t get caught up in marveling at how much better they’ve played against Atlanta in the last two meetings, including a tough 114-111 home loss during their late-season surge to the playoffs.
The Hawks stomped the Nets by an average of more than 20 points per contest in the first three showdowns, and appeared on the verge of making the series opener non-competitive before Brooklyn quickly rebounded from a 12-point first-quarter deficit.
Former Hawk Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez scored 17 points apiece, Thaddeus Young had 15 points and Deron Williams and Jarrett Jack added 13 each for Brooklyn, which closed within four points with a minute and a half to play on Young’s floater in the lane.
But Atlanta quelled any hopes of a Brooklyn upset in Game 1 when Jeff Teague answered with a layup and two free throws to give the Hawks a 97-89 advantage with 57 ticks remaining.
“That’s five losses in a row now,” lamented Williams. “[Game 1] was encouraging, but at the same time almost is not a win. So we [have to] play better.”
Encouragement won’t get the Nets to the second round, nor will committing 17 turnovers, which the Hawks ably turned into 24 points.
Almost beating Atlanta isn’t the same as actually beating Atlanta.
“This is going to be a tough series,” insisted Johnson, who was booed by the crowd of 18,440 nearly every time he touched the ball in Game 1. “This is one game. We’ve got to put it behind us.”
One bright spot for Brooklyn in Game 1 was the return of key reserve Alan Anderson, who missed the final seven games of the regular season with an ankle injury.
Though he only managed five points in 15 minutes off the bench in the opener, Anderson should be more game ready Wednesday when the Nets try to even the series.
Also, Brooklyn is flirting with the idea of bringing Mirza Teletovic back after the power forward was diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs in late January.
Having Teletovic behind Young at the four-spot, and Anderson back in form could give the Nets an advantage off the bench in Game 2, especially since the Hawks have key players like Al Horford (finger) and Paul Millsap (shoulder) nursing injuries.
“I feel like we can play a lot better,” Williams noted.
Better had better be good enough to win a game against these Hawks, who are becoming all too comfortable with beating up on the Nets this season.
“We gotta win,” Williams insisted. “That’s all there is to do, and then you know you can do it. I feel like we believe we can do it, and that’s where it starts is just believing.”
Nothing But Net: Lopez established a playoff career-high with 14 rebounds in Game 1, spearheading the Nets to a 47-39 edge along the boards. … Johnson went 0-for-6 from 3-point range Sunday as the Nets made only five of their 20 attempts from beyond the arc. Atlanta, meanwhile, went 10-of-30 on 3-pointers, including a 5-of-11 performance by Kyle Korver, who led the Hawks with 21 points. … Brooklyn might want to get the jump on Atlanta in Game 2 rather than relying on a late comeback. The Hawks are a perfect 30-0 at home this season when leading their opponents entering the final period. … Game 3 is scheduled for a 3 p.m. tip at the Barclays Center, while Game 4s start time on Monday has yet to be determined.
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