Game 1 Recap: Nets 92, Hawks 99
Could have been better, could have been worse.
The Brooklyn Nets lost Game 1 of their first-round series with the first-seed Atlanta Hawks 99-92, in what was a bizarre game. The game began as expected, with the Hawks running Brooklyn out of the building. Markel Brown took a seat early and didn’t return for the rest of the game. Atlanta’s defense stifled the Nets into an iso-centric offense bogged down by sets falling apart. The Hawks’ hand-sy defense forced six first-quarter turnovers by the Nets, and Atlanta opened up a 16-point lead.
Considering the Nets have struggled in second quarters all season long, it surprised many to see Brooklyn mount its first comeback at this point. Behind strengthened defense and Deron Williams starting to pick it up, the Nets kept the game in close range heading into the third. The second half saw the Nets pull within three, before the Hawks rode a quick 8-0 spurt to another double-digit advantage and eventually another 16-point lead. The Nets had some fight left in them though, and made a late run in the fourth that fell short with open shots missing and the Hawks percolating offensively.
Here’s the good news and bad news for the Nets heading into Game 2:
- Brooklyn’s defense in stretches: In some spurts, mostly in the second, third and fourth quarters, the Nets’ defense looked very sound. Rotations were immediate and sharp, almost Hawks-esque in their own right. The Nets went under some Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroeder screens, Brook Lopez was solid as an interior presence and Alan Anderson and Mason Plumlee provided good minutes off the pine on that end. Thing is, the chances of the Nets playing this kind of defense over extended minutes are slim. There were other factors, as Horford missed pick-and-pop mid-range J’s he normally sinks, the Hawks as a whole were uncharacteristically 10-30 from deep and Paul Millsap was awful offensively after recently coming back from injury.
- Millsap struggling: Speaking of Millsap, the Nets should be thankful that he isn’t at his peak self. Injuries stink, and Millsap is easy to love as a player and person, but if him struggling to get back into All-Star form following his time out helps the Nets then it’s worth mentioning.
- Brook Lopez: Lopez was fantastic. He put in effort in every facet, kept the offensive flow going by actively looking for teammates, fought hard on both sides of the glass and scored efficiently. Lopez finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds on 6-7 shooting from the field.
- Offensive rebounding: The Nets collected 12 offensive rebounds tonight with their offense being shaky for most of the night. This created a lot of good opportunities for them, and it’s something that takes advantage of one of Atlanta’s flaws as a team.
- Deron Williams: How about D-Will looking spry? He was slow out of the gates, but began attacking the skinnier Teague in the second quarter and looked for his shot more as the game went on. He finished with 13 points on 5-11 shooting from the field and 2-4 from deep.
- Jarrett Jack scoring: Many, including myself, expected one of those Jarrett Jack games at some point in this series. You know, when he takes his usual head-scratching mid-range jumpers but just happens to make all of them? Looks like we got an early look at that tonight, as Jack finished with 13 points on 5-8 shooting on a lot of rather questionable attempts.
- Joe Johnson creating: Johnson had a very poor shooting night, going 0-6 from three, but dished out six assists in the contest in a great outing distribution-wise. Johnson found open shooters time and time again out of his post-ups, something the Nets should lean on more in Game 2.
- Lopez’s shot count: Seven shots for Lopez? Credit to Lionel Hollins and the big man for not forcing post entry after post entry like the Nets did to start the season, but seven shots? A good part of those game on Lopez’s putbacks as well. He needs to get more touches going forward.
- Open shots wouldn’t fall: Perhaps this isn’t of a huge concern since it would be tough to see this happening again, but the Nets couldn’t make an open shot to save their lives. Brooklyn finished 5-20 from downtown, many of those without a defender near the shooter. Threes are going to be pivotal in this series, and so the Nets have to make them at a respectable clip, especially when the Hawks are taking so much more. It wasn’t just threes, either.
- Bojan Bogdanovic: 31 minutes, 2-8 from the field, -7, two turnovers. Just an all-around rough night for Bogdanovic, who struggled keeping up with Kyle Korver, Atlanta’s leading scorer on the night with 21 points.
- One-on-one defense: Quite a few Nets fell victim to getting beat off the dribble in one-on-one situations, even when a switch hadn’t occurred. Not a whole lot can be done here, as even at 100% effort, Jack isn’t keeping up with a speedster like Schroeder.
- Free throws: You’re not upsetting a number one seed shooting 15-22 from the free throw line. You’re just not.
- Stagnant offense: There’s a lot of credit due to the Hawks’ defense here, but the Nets’ offense was stagnant for a few portions of this game. After the initial set went nowhere, Brooklyn would fall back to its isolating ways and it rarely ended well. This isn’t a new problem, but the Nets have looked a lot better in this regard late in the regular season. They can’t be shaken into settling by this Hawks defense. Run another set, attack the paint aggressively, try and create for others.
- Turnovers: 17 on the night for the Nets, many unforced. Can’t make those mistakes, especially when…
- Transition: …you are dreadful at defending Atlanta in transition. But that was only one side of things. The Nets couldn’t score on many fast breaks of their own, despite plenty of good looks.
- Earl Clark: I suggested he play spot minutes, but that didn’t go over well. 1-6 from the field, -11 in eight minutes. Let’s table this idea for, say, a few months.
- Williams/Jack lineup: Hollins played this for a few minutes in this one, some in the fourth quarter, even. Why. Just why.