With the entire NBA world watching, the Atlanta Hawks began their afternoon in London with some quality play, but the initial fervor of pace and entertainment ground to a halt, as the Brooklyn Nets bombarded them with incredible shooting, and sent Atlanta to a 127-110 defeat.
The opening half was filled with fireworks, and that wasn’t exactly what the general public expected. The Hawks were victimized by “old friend” Joe Johnson for the entirety of the half, as Joe exploded out of the gate with 15 points in the 1st quarter and finished the half with a staggering 26 points on just 13 shot attempts. In fairness to the Atlanta defense, Johnson was absolutely electric even when guarded closely (as evidenced by his 5-for-7 effort from long range), but in the absence of DeMarre Carroll, the perimeter defense was shaky at best.
It isn’t every day that a Hawks team (or any team) can shoot over 51% from the field over a 24-minute stretch and trail by 12, but that is exactly what happened here. With Johnson’s 26 points as the catalyst, Brooklyn scored 65 (yes, 65) in the opening half, shooting 55% from the field and 50% from 3-point distance as a team. Atlanta added to the red-hot shooting by the Nets with some woes of their own though, allowing Brooklyn to shoot sixteen additional shots in the half, due to a negative-8 margin on the glass and 9 turnovers on offense, and shooting just 2-for-11 from beyond the arc.
The start of the second half wasn’t any better for Atlanta, as the Nets sprinted out to a 9-0 run over the first 4 minutes of the period. There was a visible lack of energy (copyright, Larry Drew) and tempo coming out of the break, and before the team could “wake up”, it was a 76-55 deficit with under 8 to play in the 3rd quarter. Still, there was no “give up” for the Hawks, as they countered Brooklyn’s early surge with a 9-0 run of their own (thanks to Pero Antic and Elton Brand), cutting the lead to 76-64 with 5:47 left in the 3rd. Unfortunately, that was as close as Atlanta could get to a scorching Nets team.
Paul Pierce keyed a 9-2 run that lengthened the lead back to 19 for Brooklyn, and from there, the game was over for all intensive purposes, as Brooklyn use the “run away and hide” tactic to close things out. The Nets scored a ridiculous 99 points in the first 3 quarters, taking advantage of the wing defense (sound familiar?) in route to 13-for-21 from 3-point distance and setting the world on fire offensively.
Overall for Atlanta, it was a more than acceptable offensive effort, as 110 points would normally be enough to compete with a team like Brooklyn. Mike Scott and Shelvin Mack continued their stellar bench production to lead the team in scoring with 17 points each, and it was another high-energy effort from Elton Brand in 22 minutes, scoring 7 points, adding 4 rebounds, and swatting away 4 shots. The “studs” in Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague both struggled (combining to shoot 9-for-27), but Pero Antic took advantage of his time with 11 points and 5 rebounds, and rookie 1st-rounder Dennis Schröder even saw some action, scoring 8 points and generating 2 steals
In addition to the mild success of some individual members of the team (and I emphasize the word “mild”), there were a few storylines worth monitoring. Kyle Korver had an extremely trying day at the office, finishing 1-for-9 from the field and 1-for-8 from long range, but he did manage to extend his NBA-record streak of consecutive games with a 3-pointer to 108. It was his 8th and final attempt of the game (at the 8:23 mark of the 4th quarter) that fell through the net, but it still counts the game. 10-day contract recipient James Nunnally also made his NBA with the Hawks in this game, and he was solid, scoring 5 points in 8 minutes with a +11 on-court rating. Still, the overall defensive showing, whether aided by Brooklyn’s incredible shooting or not, is wholly unforgivable, whether DeMarre Carroll was on the floor or not.
The final “damage” was Brooklyn scoring 127 points on 53-for-91 shooting from the floor (58%) and 16-for-27 from 3-point distance (59%), but it wasn’t just shooting problems that cost Atlanta. On the glass, the Hawks were utterly decimated, as they get out-rebounded 40-to-28 (and it wasn’t this close until late), and that is certainly not an area where the absence of Carroll or the hot hand of Joe Johnson could be blamed.
Because of the nature/location of the game, there were a lot of eyeballs on the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday afternoon, and that is unfortunate. It certainly wasn’t a characteristic game from this Mike Budenholzer-led squad, but in the end, Brooklyn was the (far) better team on this day, and that is less-than-ideal in a number of ways. Now, the Hawks will have a couple of days to travel and rest, but the schedule becomes even more difficult, as they host the Miami Heat on Monday in the annual Martin Luther King day game at 5:30 pm. Stay tuned.