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Nets make few miscues, run past Hawks

The SportsXchange

ATLANTA -- The first time the Atlanta Hawks played the Brooklyn Nets this season, the Hawks won in Atlanta without suspended forward Josh Smith. Two days later in Brooklyn, the Nets won as the Hawks were without center Al Horford, nursing a sore calf and hamstring.

Saturday night at Philips Arena, the Hawks had them both but went down in flames anyway, as the Nets took a 93-80 victory, snapping a streak of eight straight losses to the Hawks at Philips Arena dating to Jan. 30, 2009.

"That's as good a game as we've played all year," Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "I mean considering it was a back to back and how important a game we felt this was for us. From the point we were down 10, or whatever we were, we can't play much better.

"We took care of the ball so well -- I think we had two turnovers in the second half -- our defensive energy was really really good.

"When we're that focused and play with that much attentiveness as we did tonight -- not much energy -- we can be a really good basketball team."

The Hawks have lost five of their last six games.

"Everything is predicated on whether we come out with energy," a visibly exhausted Hawks coach Larry Drew said. "Sitting there, I kind of sensed what we've gone through the last two, 2 1/2 weeks. It caught up with us tonight.

"Frankly, I think we hit a wall tonight. Big time."

Brook Lopez had 18 points and nine rebounds, Andray Blatche also scored 18 and Deron Williams contributed 17 points for the Nets. Reggie Evans added nine rebounds.

"I got good looks," Lopez said, "and guys like Joe (Johnson) and Deron set great screens for me.

"We just never really had a let-down. It was constantly in our minds that we wanted to keep the energy high and keep the focus high. I think we did a good job of that. If we can emulate what we did tonight the rest of the season, we'll definitely be doing well.

"We're very good when we play off our two best players, Joe and Deron. It definitely opens up the floor for everyone else."

Johnson, booed every time he touched the ball, had a quiet night with eight points to go with four rebounds, five assists and four steals.

The Hawks (34-28) jumped out to an 11-1 lead within moments of the opening tip, but the Nets absorbed the punch. Johnson scored the first Nets points that didn't come via foul shots, and Lopez and Evans kept hauling down the rebounds until Brooklyn got some traction, tying the score 23-23 after one quarter.

After that, the Hawks' energy took a nose dive. Atlanta didn't have a fast-break basket until there was less than a minute left in the first half. The Nets (37-26) had only four fast-break points in the half but led 51-37.

By the end of the third quarter, the Nets had increased the lead to 76-57 and pumped it up to a 23-point lead as the fourth quarter began.

Horford had 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Hawks and Smith scored 12 points. Jeff Teague, scoreless at halftime, had a seven-point spurt the third quarter for his only points. Johan Petro tied his season high with 10 points in the first quarter, then sat on the bench and playing only 14 minutes.

"This was a game that was important to us," Horford said, "and we let it slip.

"I think we had a little carryover from the game last night. We fought hard in Boston and I think we started out OK, but couldn't maintain that rhythm."

Each team came into the game trying to prevent the other from draining 3-point shots, but fatigue on both sides took care of that from the start. Kyle Korver hit a 3-point shot two minutes into the game to extend to 55 his streak of consecutive games with at least one 3-point basket, but he finished with only seven points.

NOTES: Both teams were playing the second game of a back-to-back, so Drew and Carlesimo knew they'd need minutes from their bench players. Carlesimo said he played Johnson more minutes than he intended to in Friday's 95-78 home win over the Washington Wizards, although Johnson said his sore left heel was feeling better. And Drew cited the heavy minutes his starters played in their 107-102 overtime road loss to the Boston Celtics. ... Drew started Johan Petro at center for the second straight night as Zaza Pachulia missed a 10th game (fourth consecutive) with a sore right Achilles'. Drew moved Horford to forward to start the game, wanting to match up size-wise with Petro on Lopez and hoping the move would keep Horford out of early foul trouble. ... Evans' eyes were nearly swollen shut before the game, the result of having been inadvertently scratched during Friday's game. He was in the starting lineup nonetheless. ... Drew didn't have to watch too many highlights of Williams's NBA-record nine 3-point shots in the first half of Friday's game (and 11 total) to know that the Hawks would need to do to make it tough on him early. Carlesimo, on the other hand, said, "Hopefully, he saved a couple for us tonight."
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