The Atlanta Hawks beat the Brooklyn Nets 99-92 and even though Al Horford and Paul Millsap were dealing with limiting injuries, it’s hard to see how the team with the best record in the East is going to lose this series.
The Hawks jumped to an 11-point lead in the first quarter and except for the Nets narrowing it down to 54-57 in the third quarter, they were dealing with around a double digit deficit for most of the game. The Hawks speed when moving the ball and fantastic job in converting mistakes into points (24 points off of 17 turnovers) were a bit too much for the slow and predictable Nets.
Not that Brooklyn were completely outplayed. They made a nice little run in the end that made the Hawks and their fans sweat a little bit. Brook Lopez scored 17 points (6-of-7 from the field) and so did Joe Johnson. But no one on the Nets gave a special performance. They weren’t able to generate enough runs, or run the floor all that well. Without the ability score a lot and quickly, it’s going to be difficult even winning more than one game.
Kyle Korver was fantastic with his shooting, leading the team with 21 points. He was 5-of-11 from beyond the arc, and getting the ball to him off the screens or after the Nets were forced to double team someone seemed to be the first and second option on the Hawks offense, as it should be, considering Korver is the best shooter in the league when he’s left wide open.
Jeff Teague scored 17 points as Deron Williams, unsurprisingly, had a difficult time keeping up with him, while DeMarre Carroll scored 17 as well. Paul Millsap with an ailing shoulder scored just 6 points on 2-of-11 from the field and Al Horford with a dislocated finger finished with a 10-10 double double, but seemed to be having a lot of problems shooting the ball after getting it taped.
If the Hawks are going to have a problem in this series, it’ll come from their big men being injured. Pero Antic and Mike Scott might not be terrible players, but the Hawks can’t win games with just shooting. Elton Brand and Mike Muscala didn’t play, and without Thabo Sefolosha anymore, size might turn into something of a problem at some point.
For the Nets, it’ll be about cleaning up their play, and going to where their strengths are. Lopez can’t take just 7 shots a game, and Joe Johnson can’t keep attempting contested jumpers. He isn’t as strong or athletic as he used to be, and even though the Nets don’t really have a lot of other options, there has to be a bit more thinking and ball moving when the ball is in his hands, either it’s simply making it even easier for an already superior rival.