Nets return to Brooklyn empty-handed after losses to Atlanta
Williams’ Miss Results in 0-2 Series Hole as Series Shifts Downtown
A wide-open shot for Deron Williams turned into a door slamming shut on the Brooklyn Nets’ hopes of pulling even in their first-round playoff series with the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks.
Having lost their first five meetings with the Hawks this season, including a 99-92 Game 1 defeat in the series opener, the Nets fought tooth and nail with Atlanta throughout Wednesday’s contest at Philips Arena.
Down two points with under a half-minute remaining, Joe Johnson found himself double-teamed and unable to put up one of his patented late-game shots.
So instead, he passed cross-court to Williams, who passed up on a contested 3-pointer and pump-faked his way into a jump shot that had tie game written all over it.
But the ball rolled around the rim and bounced out into the waiting hands of Kyle Korver, who calmly buried two free throws on the other end with 8.1 ticks on the clock, ending any hope of Brooklyn finally getting over the hump against Atlanta this year.
“I thought our team played well,’’ said Nets first-year head coach Lionel Hollins following the hard-to-swallow 96-91 setback in front of 18,207 fans at Philips Arena.
“The Atlanta Hawks won 60-plus games and they’re a good team,” noted Hollins. “We had our chances here. Now it’s time to go home and hold serve at our place.’’
If Hall of Fame coach Pat Riley’s edict is correct, this series has yet to get underway.
Riley, who claimed several decades ago that an NBA playoff series doesn’t truly begin until a home team loses a game, might agree with Hollins’ optimistic “hold serve” approach to Game 3.
But the Nets haven’t held a serve or broken service in any of their six encounters with the mighty Hawks thus far this season.
After getting blown out by an average of 20 points in the first three meetings, the Nets have come close in each of the last three matchups, including a 114-111 loss at Barclays in the final regular-season contest between the squads.
Unfortunately for Brooklyn, getting closer to beating the Hawks isn’t getting it any closer to advancing to the Eastern Conference semifinals for a second straight season.
“All is not lost,” a resilient Jarrett Jack insisted after putting up a team-high 23 points off the bench. “Our confidence is high.”
Brook Lopez scored 20 points, Johnson finished with 19 and Alan Anderson added 13 in a reserve role for the Nets, who must find a way to take Game 3 Saturday in Brooklyn if they hope to avert the calamity of an 0-3 series deficit.
Paul Millsap poured in 19 points and Al Horford had 14 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists for the Hawks, who admittedly got a good bounce on Williams’ wide-open look to leave Atlanta with a commanding 2-0 series lead.
“We feel fortunate that we made just enough plays, just enough stops,” newly named NBA Coach of the Year Mike Budenholzer told the Associated Press.
“Our effort was outstanding,’’ added Hollins. “We made great hustle plays. We took away a lot of stuff they’ve been hurting us with all year long.’’
Williams, who didn’t have much to say about the heartbreaking loss, except that his critical shot “felt good” as it left his hand, had an uneven night. He led the Nets with 10 rebounds and eight assists, but went a dismal 1-for-7 from the floor for two measly points.
It’s getting easier and easier for some to blame Williams for seemingly everything that goes wrong with the Nets.
At the same time, it’s getting harder and harder to expect that he’ll do something to shake those perceptions and become the franchise player and floor leader this team needs to seriously compete with the Hawks.
He had that opportunity in Game 2, but came up just short.
“I’m sure tonight I’ll think about it a lot. Not just the shot, just the game in general,” admitted Williams. “I had a lot of chances, felt like I could have played better.”
Nothing But Net: As anticipated, F Mirza Teletovic, out since late January with blood clots in his lungs, saw his first action in the series in Game 2. He finished with two rebounds and missed both his shot attempts while logging just under four minutes of playing time. … The Nets committed 16 turnovers in Game 2 while forcing only eight. … Brooklyn won the battle on the boards, 49-41, for a second straight game. … Thaddeus Young matched Williams with a porous 1-for-7 shooting night for two points. … Game 4 in Brooklyn is scheduled for Monday at the Barclays Center, though the exact game time has yet to be decided by the NBA.
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