Williams clutch as Nets snap slide against Hawks

Jim Hague, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- With the outcome of Friday night's game against the Atlanta Hawks still hanging in the balance in the final minute, the Brooklyn Nets made sure that they got the ball in the hands of their point guard, even if he had missed his last nine attempts from the floor, because Deron Williams hasn't missed a free throw in what seemed like a lifetime.
Interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo had no idea that Williams entered the final 60 seconds having made his last 43 free throws. But Carlesimo knows now, after Williams made four clutch free throws in the final minute, leading the Nets to a 94-89 victory over the Hawks at the Barclays Center.
"Deron did an excellent job making the free throws," said Carlesimo, whose record as head coach improved to 10-2 with the win. "We got good possessions and Deron protected the ball and made the shots."
Williams, who had 24 points, including 18 in the first half, made all seven of his free throws Friday night, increasing his current streak to 47 straight.
Williams believes that it was the Nets' collective team defense that allowed the team to win its seventh straight home game and improve to 24-16 overall.
"We got stops when we needed them in the fourth quarter," Williams said. "Good things happen for us when we play good defense."
The victory enabled the Nets to snap a six-game losing streak to the Hawks, dating to March 2011. That streak included a Hawks' win in Atlanta on Wednesday. It's the longest home win streak for the franchise since 2006.
The Hawks (22-17) lost for the sixth straight time on the road and fell for the seventh time in their last nine games overall.
The Nets also received 20 points from Brook Lopez, 16 of which came after halftime.
"They're a tough team to defend, because they're always running," Lopez said. "But we did a much better job defensively in the fourth quarter. I was happy we were playing them again right after the last game. We were up for them. We had motivation."
Carlesimo was pleased with the play of Lopez.
"I think he's playing as well as any center in the league," Carlesimo said. "I don't know if there's a center playing better."
The Hawks defeated the Nets 109-95 Wednesday shooting 58 percent from the floor. The Nets limited the Hawks to just 44 percent (35 of 80) Friday night.
The Nets also got 18 points from Joe Johnson and 20 rebounds from Reggie Evans.
"All the guys played hard," Carlesimo said. "Reggie set the tone by playing great defense and getting rebounds. He made Josh Smith work for his shots. We were fortunate we didn't fall asleep at the end."
The Nets had a 90-82 lead with two minutes left, but the Hawks sliced the lead to a single point after a thunderous slam dunk from Smith in Lopez's face.
But Williams was fouled twice in the final minute and made all four free throws, giving him 47 straight to push the lead to 94-89. The Nets went the final five minutes of the game without a field goal, yet still won.
"We did a nice job of bouncing back there," Carlesimo said. "We did a great job of getting to the line. To beat a good team, you have to make the free throws."
Jeff Teague led Atlanta with 21 points and 10 assists, while Devin Harris had 17 points against his former team.
Hawks coach Larry Drew wasn't pleased with the foul-shot differential. The Nets were 25 of 38 from the line, while the Hawks were just 10 of 14.
"It all came down to the free-throw line," Drew said. "That's just too big of a differential to overcome. We played pretty well. Our guys came out and worked really hard.
"We did some good things and we did some not so good things. The energy and effort was there. We just came up short."
Teague agreed.
"They were at the free-throw line an awful lot and that turned out to be the difference in the game," Teague said.
Lopez, who had a fairly silent first half, scored the first four points of the second half with a fall-away jumper and a layup, while Williams went hard to the goal for a layup that gave the Nets a 55-49 lead.
Teague went coast-to-coast with a shot that was credited after Gerald Wallace knocked it aside for goaltending, tying the game again at 58-58. Harris then went right to the hole for a layup that gave the Hawks a 60-58 lead, capping an 8-0 run.
Keith Bogans nailed a 3-pointer with 17 seconds left in the third quarter to tie the game for the 18th time at 74-74 heading into the final period.
The two teams traded the lead 14 times throughout the first half and each finished the half with a flurry.
Williams drove the length of the floor for a layup that gave the Nets a brief 49-47 lead with 28 seconds left.
Then Zaza Pachulia made a brilliant pass low to Josh Smith, whose reverse layup tied the game at 49-49 at the half.
Harris had another fun time against his former club, scoring 11 points in the first half, including three shots from beyond the arc.
Andray Blatche paced the Nets in the second quarter, scoring 11 points, including seven straight during an early stretch of the period.
Williams was happy to get another win at home, as the Nets improved their home mark to 16-7.
"We have to protect our home floor, especially because we gave away so many of the home games early," Williams said.
"No question, we have a home court advantage," Lopez said. "It's part of what we do."
NOTES: The reserves for the NBA All-Star Game won't be released until Thursday, with the league's coaches voting on the rest of the squad this weekend. Carlesimo said that he hadn't even looked at his ballot yet, but he knows one thing: He has three worthy candidates in guards Deron Williams and Joe Johnson and center Brook Lopez. "I think they're all really deserving," Carlesimo said. "We're one of the most improved teams in the league and we're playing well. I don't have a sense of how everyone else feels. I was disappointed when they changed the position criteria, because that hurt Brook." ... Carlesimo was asked about facing the Hawks in consecutive games. "It's easier when you play the same team. It makes preparation better. There's more of a carryover and more familiarity. It's almost like a playoff situation." ... The Nets welcomed PF Gerald Wallace back to the starting lineup. Wallace, who missed two games with bruised ribs and saw limited action against the Hawks Wednesday, was healthy enough to start. ... For the first time this season, the Nets listed no injuries. ... The Hawks were without former Nets Anthony Morrow and DeShawn Stevenson, both missing action Friday with sore knees. ... Jerry Stackhouse, still nursing a sore hamstring, and Toko Shengelia, were the Nets' inactive players. ... The Hawks, coming off a season-best 58 percent field goal shooting against the Nets Wednesday, made eight of their first nine attempts on Friday. ... Both teams lost players to injury during the game. Late in the first quarter, Nets guard MarShon Brooks grabbed his shoulder, went to the locker room and didn't come back. In the second quarter, Hawks guard Lou Williams pulled up as his right knee buckled in ugly fashion while on a breakaway layup. He hopped on one leg to a walkway, where he received treatment. Williams was in obvious pain. He was initially diagnosed with a right knee sprain and will be re-evaluated when the team returns to Atlanta.

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