The Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks both lost key pieces to season-ending injuries last month. While Deron Williams is starting to pick up the slack for the Nets, the Hawks are still looking for others to step up.
Brooklyn goes for a season best-tying third consecutive win Monday night against visiting Atlanta, which tries to avoid a season worst-tying third straight defeat.
After posting a season-high 29 points in Thursday's thrilling 95-93 win at Oklahoma City, Williams scored 21 and shot 7 of 10 as the Nets (12-21) got by Cleveland 89-82 on Saturday. The three-time All-Star is averaging 13.6 points, 4.0 less than his career mark, but Brooklyn is 3-1 when he scores at least 20.
"Deron - two games in a row now that he's been big for us, leading the way," said coach Jason Kidd, whose team won three in a row Dec. 7-12. "He's getting great looks and also finding his teammates, that's been a big plus for us."
The Nets were outrebounded 45-33 but held the Cavaliers to 36.7 percent shooting. They have gone 3-4 since All-Star center Brook Lopez went down with a broken foot Dec. 20.
"We're not buckling, we're not getting down," said Andray Blatche, who had 12 points in his first game since missing four due to personal reasons. "We're fighting and we're competing."
The Hawks (18-16), meanwhile, have compiled a 2-3 record since Al Horford suffered a torn pectoral Dec. 26. Atlanta has averaged just 99.2 points and shot 40.8 percent over that stretch, significantly lower than its season marks of 102.6 and 46.1.
The Hawks had an especially rough go in Saturday's 91-84 loss at Chicago. Paul Millsap had 16 points and 12 rebounds but shot 5 of 18 as Atlanta matched its lowest scoring total of the season.
The Hawks, who were limited to 37.2 percent shooting, dropped three straight Nov. 23-27.
"It was a close game and we just couldn't find a way," said coach Mike Budenholzer, whose team surrendered a season-high 20 offensive boards. "I think we have to be a little smarter down the stretch. We have to compete every possession, every rebound."
While Millsap has scored a combined 67 points in the Hawks' last two wins, he's averaged 15.0 and shot 26.1 percent over their last three defeats.
Atlanta has taken seven of nine from the Nets, most recently winning 105-93 at Brooklyn on March 17. It was Horford, though, who led the way in that game with 22 points and 11 rebounds.
Former Hawks guard Joe Johnson, averaging 14.9 points, has managed 7.0 while shooting 30.0 percent during Brooklyn's 3-2 stretch. However, Andrei Kirilenko has provided a boost in three games since returning from a back injury last week.
"He's a pro. Sometimes the stat sheet doesn't show it but he does all the little things, coming up with loose balls, finding open teammates and being able to cut and finish plays," Kidd said. "The last two games he's been able to do that and it's been big for us."
The Nets are 12-5 when holding opponents to 100 points or fewer compared to 0-16 when they don't. Atlanta has dropped seven of nine on the road while getting outscored 107.9-101.7.
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