Game 4 Recap: Nets 120, Hawks 115 (OT)
The Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks needed overtime to decide Game 4’s winner, as both teams took turns moving the ball for open looks on offense, but the Nets relied on Deron Williams’s steady hand and shot-making skills to even up their first-round series at two games apiece following a 120-115 victory. Williams led the Nets with 30 points and seven assists (to two turnovers), and grabbed five rebounds, collected three steals, and shot 13/25 from the field while playing all-but seven minutes for the Nets, and shook off any talk of tendinitis. Brook Lopez provided the secondary scoring with 26 points (on 19 shots) and 10 boards, and Joe Johnson added 17 points (on 16 field goals), five assists, and six rebounds, but Deron put his stamp on tonight’s game early.
Both the Nets and Hawks opened the quarter by playing according to their respective coaches’ gameplans, as Atlanta looked to trap ball handlers and run off of turnovers, while Brooklyn went towards the basket to open up spacing for their shooters. Bojan Bogdanovic provided a nice weak-side ball-handling option to run pick-and-roll on his own or even with Deron Williams, and also allowed Deron to spot up from the perimeter and establish his jump shot early. Williams supplied 11 points on 3/4 shooting from three while working off the ball, including on an assist from an active Brook Lopez, who scored eight points of his own in the first quarter.
The Nets extended their momentum to an 18-3 advantage into the second quarter. Atlanta’s second unit, and the energetic backcourt of Dennis Schröder and Kent Bazemore, maintained the pace by attacking the basket and finding Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll from deep, and the Hawks came back to tie it at 43. The Nets at times looked like a team that could run and pass along with Atlanta (or at least the mortal version of them that traveled to Brooklyn), by instigating their pace off of turnovers and skipping the ball for better looks. As their run dried up, though, so did the Nets’ passing.
The Brooklyn ball movement briefly returned in the third quarter after Atlanta established a 51-45 halftime lead, along with Deron Williams’s bounce in his crossover. Williams found Brook Lopez for a couple of easy looks near the basket until the passing again lulled, and Atlanta surged to a 10-point lead as they turned Brooklyn drives into strips and transition opportunities. The Hawks fed all evening off of turnovers, as their passing seemed to speed up with the game’s tempo, and a late Nets run kept the lead at eight points entering the final frame.
The fourth quarter began with flames, at least from the Nets’ perspective. A 13-3 run tied the game and forced an Atlanta timeout, as Nets shooters (Deron, Bojan, Alan Anderson) were the recipient of extra passing and knocked down big shots from the arc. Kyle Korver, of course, responded after the timeout with a three-pointer, but Deron Williams wasn’t done.
Back-to-back threes came after a pull-up two, and Deron’s eight-consecutive points not only gave the Nets the lead, but kept Atlanta’s defense completely off-balance and in foul trouble. Jeff Teague learned often to go over the top on Deron’s screens, and a quick crossover and head-fake gave Williams some newfound driving lanes. Teague, however, stayed aggressive on offense (even as Deron roasted him on D) in going to the basket and pestering the Nets’ defense in transition.
Atlanta’s defense tightened up even without Al Horford in for much of the fourth, and Brooklyn’s offense went from Joe Johnson throwing up wide-open corner-threes to Joe forcing fadeaway long-twos off the bounce to bail out the shot clock. With the ball in Deron’s hands, ball movement (or defense, or range) didn’t even matter.
The Nets’ two-point advantage with 24 seconds remaining evaporated following an uncontested Paul Millsap dunk (as Brook Lopez somehow sat out a defensive possession in favor of Bojan Bogdanovic…), and Lionel Hollins trusted his point guard, Deron Williams, to win the game. Unfortunately, Deron’s post-up, fadeaway jumper was triggered too early, and Atlanta had plenty of time left for an opportunity to win the game, with 6.5 seconds on the clock. Millsap stumbled to the basket after some strong Thaddeus Young defense and was unable to get a shot off in time, and the game entered overtime with both teams locked at 104 after 48 minutes.
In overtime the scoring picked up again, with both teams trading big baskets and executing on offense. An Atlanta series of passes leading to an Al Horford catch-and-floater on one end led to Brook Lopez catching off the pick-and-roll and contorting his body to find Bojan on the other side of the court for a completely wide-open three-point look. The Nets played together all game, by communicating, moving, and trusting each other on both ends, and outlasted multiple Kyle Korver looks to finally prevail in overtime, 120-115.
Deron Williams played perhaps his biggest game in a Nets uniform (with all due respect to his 57-point outburst in Charlotte), in taking over for the team late in their 120-115 win. The half-court offense often devolved into Iso Joe Johnson possessions throughout the second half as the other Nets spotted up around him, while the keys to victory for either team seemed to be ball movement and consistent scoring. Deron Williams ran the Nets’ offense as Johnson struggled with his shot (5/16), and worked the opposite side of the court to stretch the Atlanta defense.
Putting Joe Johnson in the opposite corner kept the defense from overloading on one side of Brooklyn’s pick-and-roll attack, and allowed either he or Deron to receive open looks in the event of some extra ball swings. As Atlanta began putting more pressure on Williams off of the high screen, by sending Pero Antic blitzing out beyond the three-point line or towards the sidelines, Brook Lopez became an even more important safety valve in the middle of the floor, to relieve some of that Hawks pressure.
It began late in the first quarter, and with Jarrett Jack at point guard, but Brook Lopez finally received a pass while diving off the pick-and-roll and was able to attempt his running floater. He didn’t receive many other opportunities, but was put in a similar position later in the fourth quarter and effectively caught the pass, collapsed the defense, and found Bojan Bogdanovic on the weak-side of the floor for three.
Deron’s ability to play off-ball also allowed Bogdanovic to handle the ball a bit more and run pick-and-rolls with Brook Lopez, as he spotted up along with Joe Johnson. Atlanta cheated off of Deron to begin the game and he made them pay by making a couple of threes, then attacked with the dribble on his next possession. His versatility allowed five other Nets players to record at least three or more assists on the evening, and the team had their most success all series in shooting the three-pointer, at 45.2% (14/31).
Williams shot 7/11 from deep and 2/2 from the free throw line, while leading the Nets’ offense to a 120-point output after not topping 100 points in the previous three playoff games. His 35-point performance came just a game after scoring three points on 1/8 shooting in Saturday afternoon’s Game 3, and might stave off the talk as to his demise for another week or so. Deron Williams’s Game 4 might not be a sustainable statline every game for the veteran point guard, but tonight he was the best player on the floor and the Nets needed every bit of Deron’s vintage dominance to defeat the Atlanta Hawks in overtime and send the series back to Atlanta, tied 2-2.