After losing two straight games in Brooklyn and looking very vulnerable against the Nets, the top-seeded Hawks largely returned to form in Game 5, and took a 3-2 lead in the series by securing a 107-97 home victory.
But it certainly wasn’t easy.
Atlanta opened the game like the desperate team that it was. The energy was there from the very start, and the Hawks got out to a first quarter lead of as many as 17 points.
Brooklyn began to chip away in the second, behind a huge 14-point quarter from Alan Anderson. Deron Williams, who destroyed the Hawks with 35 points in Game 4, returned to his ineffective ways in this one, finishing with just five points — which made Anderson’s outburst that much more critical, especially when the rest of the Nets combined to shoot just 10-of-31 from the field over the first two periods.
While Anderson kept the Nets in it, DeMarre Carroll was the one doing the damage for the Hawks. Carroll finished with 19 first-half points against Anderson’s 16, and Atlanta led comfortably by nine at the intermission.
Kyle Korver got going in the third, and hit three three-pointers as the Hawks got back up by 14 points. The Nets went small to start the fourth, however, and quickly put together an 11-0 run to get within three points with just over nine minutes to play. The game was a battle the rest of the way, with Jarrett Jack and Joe Johnson taking over the scoring for the Nets, and Jeff Teague and Al Horford making big plays for the Hawks, especially down the stretch.
The Nets were once again within two points with 2:20 to play, after Johnson hit back-to-back threes. But the Hawks closed the game on a 10-2 run, when the shots stopped falling for the Nets and they made some costly turnovers after essentially running out of gas.
The Hawks looked like the Hawks at times in this one, just as they had during the second and third quarters of their Game 4 loss. But this is the fourth consecutive game in the series where Brooklyn has been able to go on huge runs to make things competitive, and put itself in position to have a chance to win it in the final few minutes.
That’ll be something for the Hawks to think about as the scene shifts back to Brooklyn for Game 6 on Friday.
Anonymous GM: If Brook Lopez wants to stay with Nets, ‘he should be able to get whatever he wants’
Deron Williams was unquestionably the star of the Nets’ Game 4 win over the Hawks on Monday, but Brook Lopez was just as important to his team’s winning effort.
Lopez finished with 26 points on 11-of-19 shooting, while grabbing 10 rebounds and protecting the rim with four blocked shots.
The performance was far from an aberration; Lopez has been on a tear to end the regular season, and his dominant inside presence has continued to be a factor against the East’s top-seeded team in the playoffs.
Lopez will have a choice to make this summer. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Nets have to hope it’s one that allows him to remain in Brooklyn — and not only for next season.
One opposing general manager, who said the prevailing thinking around the league is Lopez stays put and gets a max deal, may have summed it up best.
“If he walks, where are they going? They don’t have draft picks. They’re flip-flopping their pick [with Atlanta]. They’re getting the 29th instead of the 15th. For their future, I don’t see how they can lose him,” the GM said. “If Brook wants to stay there, he should be able to get whatever he wants.” …
Lopez has options. He can opt out and stay with the Nets on a five-year deal — other teams can offer four — and that would ease any self-worry about foot issues resurfacing. Or with all the TV money set to flood the market after next season, Lopez could sign a two-year deal with a player option for the second year. It makes no sense not to opt out.
Lopez has a player option for $16.7 million for next season, but can certainly make more in guaranteed money by signing a longer-term deal, either in Brooklyn or somewhere else.
The point, here, is that Lopez seemingly has all the leverage. The Nets need to keep their All-Star caliber talent in place if they hope to compete, because there is no help coming in the form of young talent through the draft for the next several seasons. Brooklyn might like to convince Lopez to take the two-year route, just to maintain some semblance of future cap flexibility. But what’s more important is securing his services for what appears likely to be the prime of his career.
Jarrett Jack fires back at Paul Pierce after Deron Williams’ breakout Game 4 performance
Pierce specifically targeted Deron Williams, and questioned whether or not he could truly perform on one of the game’s biggest stages.
“Before I got there, I looked at Deron as an MVP candidate,” Pierce said. “But I felt once we got there, that’s not what he wanted to be. He just didn’t want that.
“I think a lot of the pressure got to him sometimes. This was his first time in the national spotlight. The media in Utah is not the same as the media in New York, so that can wear on some people. I think it really affected him.”
“I’m not worried about people that’s saying stuff that’s not inside this locker room. So, if you’re on another team and you comment on another player, I don’t understand why you’re doing that anyway,” Jack told the News. “Especially that’s something that’s in the past, it’s over and done with. If you had something you want to say, you should have done it when you were in the locker room with him. And doing it publicly, I just thought that was, I don’t know. I don’t want to say it’s in poor taste because I think Paul is a professional, he’s just answering a question, but I probably wouldn’t have done it in that fashion.”
Should the Nets continue to come together they way they have over the past two games, and find a way to become just the sixth eighth-seeded team to knock off a one-seed in postseason history, they’ll get a chance to face Pierce and the Wizards in the second round.
Take that Paul Pierce: Deron Williams leads Nets with 35 to get win (VIDEO).
NEW YORK — Deron Williams had scored five total points on 2-of-15 shooting over the last two games of Brooklyn’s first-round playoff series against the Hawks, and was benched for the entire fourth quarter of Saturday’s Game 3, which the Nets won more due to an uncharacteristically lackluster Atlanta performance than because of anything else.
But Williams figuratively rose from the dead on Monday, and turned in an incredible performance to lead his team to a 120-115 overtime victory which evened the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.
“It’s very satisfying,” Nets head coach Lionel Hollins said of Williams afterward. “The kid has overcome a lot of adversity, with the injuries and with the negativity around his name. For him to come out showed a lot of character to put on a performance like that, especially when we needed it. Because without that performance, I don’t know if we get out of here with a win. I’ll take it, and I’m excited about it.”
Williams finished with 35 points, five rebounds, seven assists and three steals, and scored 16 in the fourth quarter while making some incredibly difficult shots. He had been buried by the media in recent days, and Hollins, unprompted, jumped to his defense at Sunday’s practice.
“I’m disappointed in how everybody’s coming down on Deron and trying to treat him like he’s a pariah,” Hollins told reporters. “Deron’s a good person, he’s a good player. Now, is he on the level that you guys think he should be? That’s your fault for thinking that somebody should be something.”
“No player is the same as he was four years ago,” Hollins continued. “All I’m saying is the guy has played well and somebody picks out that he has two points. So what? He played well. It’s not just about the scoring. There’s a lot of teams that would be better because they have some guys who score a lot of points. But it’s about winning, it’s about doing the right things for the team. And I’ll defend Deron till the end on that and all my players to the end.”
On this night, no defense of Deron was needed. He started off hot with 11 first-quarter points, and set the tone early for his teammates by playing with a high level of aggressiveness. The Hawks were largely unfazed, however, and went on a run in the second quarter to erase an eight-point deficit and take a six-point lead into the halftime intermission.
One particular play stood out — a fast break opportunity where Atlanta pushed the ball, and zipped three quick passes around to create a wide open corner three for Mike Scott, which he calmly knocked down. These were the Hawks that won 60 games during the regular season, and it appeared as though they might have returned in time to take control of the series.
Atlanta carried its strong play through the third, where it pushed the lead to as many as 12 points. The Hawks dominated the period by knocking down 13 of their 20 shot attempts, and hitting the offensive glass hard to rebound all but two of their misses.
But Williams opened the fourth quarter by hitting back-to-back threes and a step-back jumper to cut the lead to three, while singlehandedly bringing his team back. He made a lot of tough shots, but the craziest came with his team trailing by two and just under two minutes to play. The shot clock was winding down, and he was being hounded by Jeff Teague some 35 feet from the basket.
And then, this happened.
“I said thank god,” Hollins remarked, when discussing the shot that was characterized as a prayer in a postgame question. “We needed it, and it was answered.”
It was by no means the game’s deciding play; that would have been this one from Thaddeus Young, an and-1 floater with just under a minute to play in the overtime session. But it was one of the most important in terms of keeping the Nets in it long enough to eventually emerge victorious.
“I honestly don’t know what happened,” Williams said of his shot-clock-buzzer-beating shot. “I just knew the clock was winding down, I had to get a shot off and it felt good as soon as it left my hand.”
Williams never responds publicly to criticism, and seems to take any negative comments in stride — including some that came from his former teammate Paul Pierce just before the postseason began. But he does hear them, and when someone like his head coach takes up publicly for him, the kindness doesn’t go unnoticed.
“It definitely means a lot,” Williams said of Hollins defending him. “I thanked him today after the game, and it means a lot when your coach, when you’re struggling like that, when your coach comes out and defends you the way he did, it definitely means a lot. It says a lot about how much he cares about not only me, but this team and our players.”
Hollins has been able to turn the negativity surrounding Williams early in this series into a huge positive, which has galvanized his team in the process. Williams was able to respond on the court with a transcendent Game 4 performance, and hopes to build on it the rest of the way.
“I just want to keep being aggressive like this throughout the series,” Williams said. “We evened it up, we’re playing better as a team, and we’re figuring things out. So I just need to keep being aggressive like this.”