The Atlanta Hawks have dominated the New Jersey Nets this season. And on Monday night, for the third time in the two weeks, the Hawks defeated the Nets, 106-101, at the Prudential Center.
Behind Josh Smith’s 10-of-14 shooting for a season-high 26 points, Atlanta shot nearly 54 percent from the field. All-Star forward Joe Johnson –who’s starting to emerge out of a slump– added 22 points, including six crucial points late in the fourth to halt a New Jersey comeback. Hawks point guard Jeff Teague contributed 20 points, while forward Al Horford scored 14 points and nine rebounds and Vladimir Radmanovic’s 3-point shooting lit up the Nets for 14 points, as the Hawks (7-3) led for all but a few seconds in winning their third consecutive game in four nights.
Deron Williams’ frustration has been evident this season, as the Nets (2-8) remain winless in four games at home.
On Monday night, the Nets put themselves in an early hole falling behind 31-18 after a first quarter in which they allowed the Hawks to outshoot them 62.3 percent to 29.4 percent, and they were never able to climb up out of it. According to ESPN Stats & Info, New Jersey is currently ranked last in points scored (18.2) and near the bottom of the league in points allowed (25.6) during the opening stanza.
New Jersey didn’t go down without a fight. The Nets trailed by nine points entering the final period and got within 84-79 on a jumper by rookie sensation MarShon Brooks with 8:29 to play. But Atlanta’s balance scoring was too much for the Nets. Johnson posted up against Brooks and hit a turnaround jumper to start a 16-9 run, in which he had six points in that span. Smith added three points and fed Horford for a dunk and Radmanovic, who was starting for the injured Marvin Williams, hit a corner three followed by a floater in the lane by Teague that put the Hawks ahead 100-88 with 2 ½ minutes left to play. New Jersey cut the deficit to five points 100-95 on a Kris Humphries layup in the lane with roughly 30 seconds to play, four points on a D.Will 3-pointer, 102-98 with 11.1 seconds to go, and eventually to three points on a 3-pointer by shooting guard Anthony Morrow with 4.2 seconds remaining, 104-101. After the Hawks called a timeout, Johnson took the inbound pass and iced the game with two clutch free throws to empty out the low attendance crowd at the Prudential Center for the final score, 106-101.
There were some positives for the Nets. They scored over 100 points for the first time all season, shot a season-high 46.8 percent from the field and had big contributions from their role players. Morrow had a team-high 20 points, Humphries finished with 13 points and seven rebounds and Brooks had 19 points and a career-high 10 rebounds as they nearly rallied back from a 16-point deficit by making seven of their eleven 3-pointers in the second half. But as expected, New Jersey’s negatives far outweighed their positives. Despite dishing out a season-high 14 assists, Williams went 6-for-17 from the field for only 10 points and added to his league lead in turnovers with six more. Quite a turnaround from his days as the leader of the Utah Jazz, when he had Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur to finish. Williams is averaging 17 points, 7.7 assists, 1.6 assists and 4.6 turnovers per game in 35.3 minutes.
With injuries sidelining Okur (back spasms), Damion James (right foot), DeShawn Stevenson (sore knee) and starting center Brook Lopez (broken foot), the Nets will embark on a four-game road trip starting in Denver on Wednesday night to play the Nuggets. In order for New Jersey to turn things around this season, D.Will will have to do a better job leading his young team.
The Hawks and Nets will finish their four-game series on March 23 in Atlanta.