The Brooklyn Nets, after beating Toronto last Tuesday and extending their win streak to a season-high 7 games, saw their streak come to an end in the first of a home-and-home with Atlanta on Wednesday. They lost 109-95 and were totally outplayed in the paint and in the post. The back end of the home-and-home was a much different story, as it was a seesaw battle all night. At the end of the first 3 quarters, the game was tied. It was 29-29 after one, 49-49 at the half, 74-74 after 3 quarters.
The 4th quarter would be the defining quarter, as key Deron Williams free throws would secure a victory. D-Will led the way with 24 points, and a trio of other Nets were in double figures, as Brook Lopez added 20, Joe Johnson knocked in 18, and Andray Blatche added 11 off the bench. Gerald Wallace returned to the starting lineup, but was only a mild contributor on offense. Defensively, he managed one steal and one block. Reggie Evans continues to be a vaccuum at the boards, snaring 20 rebounds in this one.
Both teams would get off to a slow start in the 4th, as the Nets only managed to sink 3 free throws to take a 77-74 lead nearly 4 minutes into the quarter. A Joe Johnson jumper would balloon it to 79-74, but the Hawks would come to within one. Another Joe Johnson jumper made it 81-78 and a pair of Jeff Teague free throws would cut the deficit back to one point. However, the Nets would use a 9-2 mini run to keep the Hawks at arms’ length, as Brook Lopez knocked down 7 of those 9 points, including 5 from the free throw line.
Yet even then, the Hawks refused to quit. Down 90-82 with 2:01 left, former Net Johan Petro, who was part of the trade that landed Joe Johnson in Brooklyn, hit a layup to cut it to 90-84. A Jeff Teague 3-pointer and a Josh Smith jumper would cut the Brooklyn advantage to 90-89 with 43 seconds left. Just when things looked rosy for the Nets, it appeared it was going to fall apart.
Until Deron Williams decided it was time to take over.
The Brooklyn Nets point guard would draw two late fouls, sinking all free throws to give the 94-89 final. But part of that was keyed by a huge defensive play from Brook Lopez. He blocked a jumper by Jeff Teague that would have cut the deficit to one again, setting up the final D-Will free throws.
The Nets now turn their attention to the Knicks for a Martin Luther King Day matinee, their final meeting of the season. The Nets look to even up the season series after taking the opener and then dropping the next two. The Nets can gain further ground on the Knicks, as they are currently only 2 games behind them in the Atlantic Division. This game begins a 4-game road trip that sees the Nets go west after this and face some stiff competition. Their upcoming schedule is as follows:
1/21 @ Knicks
1/23 @ Minnesota
1/25 @ Memphis
1/26 @ Houston
The Nets have improved to 10-2 under PJ Carlesimo, and they have already surpassed their win total from last season by 2 games. The game with the Knicks marks the halfway point of the season.