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Nets-Hawks Preview

AP - Sports

The undermanned Atlanta Hawks keep finding ways to win.

That hasn't been the case for the New Jersey Nets, who have not fared well since starting center Brook Lopez's latest injury.

Two Hawks could be back Friday night when Atlanta goes for a fifth straight victory in this series and seventh in a row at home over slumping New Jersey.

The Hawks (27-20) had just 10 available players during each of the last three games, but the club capped off a 2-1 homestand Wednesday in dramatic fashion. Atlanta rallied from 16 points down, and from six back in overtime, to defeat Cleveland 103-102.

Joe Johnson made a 3-pointer at the end of regulation and then hit the winning jumper with 20 seconds left in OT for the Hawks, winners of three of four. Atlanta prevailed despite playing without Al Horford, Jannero Pargo, Marvin Williams and Vladimir Radmanovic due to injuries.

The club was also missing Ivan Johnson, who was in Texas for the birth of his child.

"We're showing a resilience and a will to win,'' said forward Josh Smith, who had team highs of 32 points and 17 rebounds. "There's a different DNA on this team than previous years.''

Willie Green returned Wednesday after missing 10 games with a hamstring injury, and Atlanta could get another lift Friday with Johnson likely to be back and Williams possibly playing for the first time in six games.

The Nets (15-33) haven't fared nearly as well with a key contributor out, as they're facing an 11th consecutive game without Lopez due to a sprained right ankle. The center missed the first 32 games of the season - including the three matchups with Atlanta - with a broken foot suffered in the preseason.

The Nets have lost seven times during Lopez's latest absence, and the resulting frustration seems to be boiling over for soon-to-be free agent Deron Williams. After picking up a technical in a 105-100 loss to the Cavaliers on Monday, the All-Star point guard was ejected in a 108-89 loss to Washington on Wednesday for arguing a non-call on his drive to the basket.

"Unfortunately both of us got thrown out of the game,'' said coach Avery Johnson, who followed Williams to the locker room after arguing the call. " ... I think we are all disappointed but we have to get back to playing some defense."

The Nets, looking to avoid their first five-game losing streak since a season-high eight-game skid Feb. 3-16, could also benefit from better shooting. They have scored 88.3 points per game and made 38.6 percent from the field since their last win.

Rookie guard MarShon Brooks is averaging 7.5 points - 5.6 below his season average - and has shot 9 of 37 shots during the four-game slide. However, he's averaged a team-best 19.0 points and made 51.3 percent from the field versus Atlanta this season.

Brooks scored 21 points and Williams added 23 in New Jersey's lone visit to Philips Arena this season, a 105-98 loss Dec. 30. The Nets have been outscored by an average of 17.2 points in the six straight defeats in Atlanta.

The Hawks will get their first look at Gerald Wallace in a Nets uniform. In three games since being acquired from Portland, the veteran forward has averaged 17.0 points and 6.0 rebounds.

Johnson has averaged 25.1 points and gone 27 of 50 from beyond the arc in eight contests since missing four with left knee tendinitis.

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