Hawks-Nets Preview

The Associated PressJanuary 8, 2012

The Atlanta Hawks were upbeat after defeating one of the top teams in the league their last time out.

A matchup against the woeful New Jersey Nets doesn't seem likely to lower their spirits.

The visiting Hawks look for a ninth win in 11 games over the Nets as these teams meet for the third time in two weeks Monday night.

Atlanta (6-3) concluded a stretch of five games in six days - including its first back-to-back-to-back set of the season - with an impressive 109-94 victory over Chicago on Saturday. The Hawks started the game on a 12-1 tear, opened a 17-point lead into the second quarter and never looked back.

"A night like tonight shows what were capable of as a team," said Al Horford, who scored 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting. " ... I hope that this carries over into our next game and maybe we can start building off this. I think if we can bring that kind of energy, we'll be in good shape."

Atlanta shot a season-best 56.6 percent from the field Saturday and seemed to benefit from playing at a faster pace. The Hawks scored 27 fast-break points - they had scored 29 in their previous four games combined - and will surely look to continue their up-tempo style of play going forward.

"Whatever we did - we need to bottle it up and put it in a water bottle," point guard Jeff Teague said. "We really got out in transition. That's something that we haven't been doing lately - we've been a halfcourt team these last couple of games. (Saturday) we got out in transition and got some easy baskets.

"When we're out in transition and playing like that, we're a better team."

New Jersey (2-7) knows all too well of the Hawks' ability to dominate a game. Three days before suffering a 105-98 loss at Atlanta, the Nets absorbed their most lopsided defeat of the season, 106-70 on Dec. 27. They've been outscored by 15.0 points per game in dropping eight of 10 versus the Hawks.

After snapping a six-game losing streak with Friday's 97-85 win at Toronto, New Jersey fell 101-90 to Miami the following day. The Nets, who rank last in the league in field-goal percentage (38.1), shot just 33.7 percent from the floor and matched a season high with 22 turnovers.

Power forward Kris Humphries recorded a career best-tying 25 points and 12 rebounds. Two-time All-Star Deron Williams scored just 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting but dished out a season-best 10 assists.

"I like the offense. I like the system. I just think we're not executing good," Williams said. "We're not finishing. We're not hitting shots. You know we're messing up plays. We're not on the right spots. (Friday) we were. (Saturday) we weren't. It's a night and day frame you know where we were (Friday)."

While the Nets have limited Josh Smith to a combined 14 points in the previous two meetings, they could have difficulty slowing down the versatile forward in this one. After a quiet start to the season, Smith is averaging 20.0 points on 52.3 percent shooting and 11.3 rebounds during his last four games.

Smith is coming off an outstanding all-around effort, posting seasons highs of 25 points, six blocks, five assists and four steals to go with five boards versus the Bulls.

Hawks starting small forward Marvin Williams was removed from Saturday's contest after spraining his left ankle. Williams, averaging 10.9 points and 6.0 rebounds, is uncertain to suit up Monday.