Nets-Hawks Preview

The Associated Press

A record-setting performance from Deron Williams has the Brooklyn Nets gaining some confidence.

The timing may be ideal with the Atlanta Hawks sputtering.

Williams looks to build on one of the best shooting displays in NBA history Saturday night as the Nets try to stay hot by winning in Atlanta for the first time in more than four years.

Since sitting out two games with ankle tendinitis, Williams is averaging 23.8 points on 48.0 percent shooting - 53.0 from beyond the arc - over the last nine contests. That's an improvement from his season average of 17.8 points, his lowest production since managing 16.2 with Utah in 2006-07.

The point guard continued his impressive play Friday, setting an NBA record with nine 3s in the first half and finishing with a season-high 42 points as the Nets (36-26) coasted to a 95-78 win over Washington. Williams ended up with a team-record 11 3-pointers, one shy of the league mark shared by Kobe Bryant (2003) and Donyell Marshall (2005).

"Deron, he was hot like fish grease," forward Reggie Evans said. "He was hot, so he kind of kicked it off and we just kept it going throughout the game."

Williams wasn't close to being that effective at Atlanta on Jan. 16, going 5 for 18 from the floor - 2 for 9 from behind the arc - to finish with 12 points with nine assists in a 109-95 loss in the first game of a home-and-home set.

Brooklyn won 94-89 two days later behind Williams' 24 points.

Now, the Nets are trying to win in Atlanta for the first time since Nov. 15, 2008. They've dropped eight in a row there while surrendering an average of 109.4 points.

Joe Johnson should be eager for a better performance at Philips Arena after he managed 15 points in the January trip, shooting 4 for 15 while missing all four chances from long range in his first visit to Atlanta since being traded to Brooklyn last summer.

Johnson, who spent the past seven seasons with the Hawks (34-27), is trying to get back on track after matching his season low with six points against the Wizards.

While Brooklyn is going for a three-game winning streak, the Hawks are hoping to win for the 12th time in their last 15 games in this series after falling for the fourth time in five contests, 107-102 in overtime at Boston on Friday.

"I think the story of the game for us was turnovers down the stretch," Al Horford told the NBA's official website after Atlanta gave it away three times in OT. "I think that they just killed us. We can't turn the ball over. We have got to get a shot every time."

Horford had 22 points and 13 rebounds - he's averaged 23.6 points in his last 12 games - while Josh Smith had 32 points, nine assists and eight boards after averaging just 13.0 points in his first four games this month.

Smith has scored 23.8 points per game on 60.3 percent shooting over his last four home meetings with the Nets. However, he missed the most recent one while serving a one-game team suspension for detrimental conduct due to an incident at practice.

He had 12 points in the matchup in Brooklyn, while Horford sat out with a hamstring injury after putting up 17 points and grabbing 13 rebounds Jan. 16.

The Hawks are 18-5 when Horford scores at least 20 points and 15-20 when he scores 19 or fewer. He's also missed three games.

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