Brooklyn had a rough time already this week competing against Atlanta without facing Josh Smith
Things could get even tougher for the Nets with the Hawks star in the lineup for Friday night’s rematch.
With Smith back from his one-game suspension, the Hawks look to snap a five-game road skid while trying for a seventh consecutive victory over the Nets in the finale of this home-and-home matchup.
Playing without Smith, who was suspended and fined an undisclosed amount for “conduct detrimental to the team” following an incident in practice Tuesday, Atlanta (22-16) posted a 109-95 home win over Brooklyn (23-16) on Wednesday. Jeff Teague had a career-high 28 points with 11 assists while Zaza Pachulia added 13, 11 rebounds and eight assists as the undersized Hawks owned a 29-12 advantage in fast-break points and shot a season-high 57.7 percent.
“We were good,” said coach Larry Drew, whose team shot a season-low 29.3 percent Monday at Chicago in a 97-58 loss, Atlanta’s sixth in seven games. “With Josh we’re better. That’s just the bottom line.
“It will be good to get Josh back. (Thursday) when Josh shows up, he will get a big hug from me.”
Though Smith averages a team-leading 16.5 points and is second with 8.3 rebounds, Atlanta has increased the tempo while averaging 107.3 and shooting 53.9 percent to beat Brooklyn, Oklahoma City and Indiana in the three games Smith has missed this season. Teague has averaged 19.7 points in those contests - 6.6 above his average.
However, interim Brooklyn coach P.J. Carlesimo knows his team could face an even greater challenge against the Hawks with Smith on the floor.
“They were a very, very good team without Josh,” said Carlesimo, who has guided the Nets to a 9-2 record since taking over for the fired Avery Johnson. “You’ve got to think they’re going to be a better team when they add a player of his caliber on Friday.”
Smith has scored a combined 20 points in his last two games, but has totaled 56 in his last two against the Nets.
Though Atlanta has averaged 82.2 points in its last five road contests, it’s shot 50.0 percent while averaging 102.8 during a six-game winning streak against the Nets. Al Horford had 17 with 13 rebounds while former Nets guard Devin Harris added 18 points, five assists and four steals to help Atlanta snap Brooklyn’s season-high seven-game winning streak Wednesday.
“Early you could see that the energy was there,” Drew said. “They came out and took the attack to Brooklyn. You have to play like that when you’ve been struggling.”
Brook Lopez scored 22 while Joe Johnson had 15 on 4-of-15 shooting in his first trip to Atlanta since the Hawks traded him to Brooklyn in July. After shooting 39.4 percent from 3-point range over the previous seven contests, the Nets went 4 of 26 from beyond the arc in the second of back-to-back games.
“We’re flat-out exhausted,” Carlesimo said.
Though their overall winning streak ended, the Nets look for a season-high seventh consecutive victory at the Barclays Center. Johnson has averaged 20.0 points and gone 8 of 15 from 3-point range in the last three games at home.