Moke Hamilton, SNYNets.com
NEW YORK — It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t high scoring, but the Nets got a win and that’s all that counts.
On Friday night at Barclays Center, the Nets avenged Wednesday’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks and defeated the club, 94-89.
As each makes a late push to be named to the NBA’s Eastern Conference All-Star Team as a reserve, both Deron Williams and Brook Lopez made huge plays down the stretch for the 24-16 Nets.
With the victory, the Nets are now 10-2 under P.J. Carlesimo and are currently the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Through the first three quarters, the Nets and Hawks played evenly, being tied at 29, 49 and 74 after the first, second and third quarters, respectively.
The Hawks fell behind in the fourth quarter, missing their first five shots from the field. The Nets led by five at that point and went ahead by as many as eight points with just less than three minutes remaining in the game.
Then, things got interesting.
The Hawks responded with a quick 7-0 run that was capped by a coast-to-coast one handed tomahawk dunk by Josh Smith over Brook Lopez. Smith’s thunderous dunk cut the Nets lead to a single point, 90-89 with 1:02 remaining.
On the ensuing possession, Williams was fouled by Jeff Teague and converted both free-throws, putting the Nets ahead, 92-89. It was on the Hawks’ following possession that Lopez made the game’s biggest play by blocking a shot attempt by Teague.
Williams eventually wound up with the ball, got fouled and sank two more free-throws and that was all she wrote.
Amazingly, Williams has made 47 consecutive free-throws and is now shooting 86.2 percent from the free-throw line on the season.
For the Nets, the win felt good not only because the team got revenge on the Hawks for ending their seven-game win streak, but also because the usually stellar bench didn’t provide the normal scoring punch that Carlesimo has become accustomed to.
MarShon Brooks, Mirza Teletovic and Andray Blatche combined to score to 14 points for the Nets. It was the starting unit that did the heavy lifting.
Though Williams and Lopez deserve most of the credit for coming up in crunch time and helping the Nets secure the victory, Joe Johnson came up big when it counted. Johnson converted his first two attempts of the game before missing his next six shots, ending the first half 2-for-8. In the second half, though, he managed to turn it around, scoring 14 of his 18 points and shooting 5-for-9.
The Nets “Big 3” combined to score 62 points. The 94 points that the Nets managed on Friday night is the lowest winning scoring output under Carlesimo.
The main story for the Nets, though, is that Williams seems to be regaining his form. Despite battling a nagging array of injuries, he’s come up big for the Nets lately and his recently rediscovered game has made all the difference. Though Lopez has been the Nets most consistent player, without Williams, it’s fairly obvious that the club wouldn’t have been able to turn things around.
Another developing trend for the Nets is winning the battle of free-throw attempts. Breaking down defense begins and ends with the point guard and Williams getting into the teeth of the opposition’s defense has helped Brook Lopez, Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace get to the free-throw line.
On Friday night, the Nets took 38 free-throws, compared to just 14 for the Hawks.
Afterward, Hawks coach Larry Drew cited the free-throw disparity as the main factor in the loss. “It all came down to the free-throw line,” he said. “…just too big of a differential to overcome.”
Teague, his starting point, agreed. “They were at the free-throw line a lot tonight,” he said. “That made a major difference in the game.”
For the Hawks, key reserve Lou Williams left the game in the second quarter and his knee buckled on a drive to the basket. The Hawks announced that Williams had sustained a “strained knee,” but mentioned that he would be re-evaluated on Saturday when the team returns to Atlanta to host the San Antonio Spurs.
Jeff Teague led them with 21 points and 10 assists while Josh Smith (12 points, nine rebounds) managed to shoot just 5-for-15 in a somewhat sub-par night.
For the Nets, Reggie Evans grabbed 20 rebounds in 29 minutes and Keith Bogans (eight points) played a very productive 21 minutes off the bench.
The Nets are off on Saturday before battling the New York Knicks on Monday at Madison Square Garden.