Can you believe how close this game was?
Heading into Sunday afternoon, the book on the Hawks was that they kill you with ball and player movement, force turnovers, outlast you with their depth, and pass up good plays to make great ones.
It worked for long stretches, and was totally absent in others. There’s no other way to put this: the Hawks let the Nets back into this game with uncharacteristic sloppiness. Open passes flew out-of-bounds for unforced turnovers. Kyle Korver, the three-point marksman to end all three-point marksmen, missed open looks down the stretch he expected to hit — you could tell by the way he bent over, dejected and frustrated, following the misses.
That’s not to say the Nets did nothing. Amidst boos, Joe Johnson found some looks for himself and others in the fourth, and Brook Lopez somehow found a double-double with play calls for him in the single digits. Thaddeus Young made some big shots.
But that’s also why this loss was a killer for Brooklyn’s hopes: they had the opportunities to put it away, in what would’ve been a colossal upset, and couldn’t close it out.
The best and worst of Deron Williams, neatly wrapped. Took three shot attempts in the first half and looked generally lethargic; if you buy that the Nets go as far as Williams will take them, the first few minutes were Williams and the Nets struggling to execute even basic offensive sets.
A brief, exciting stretch early in the third quarter highlighted Williams at his best, creating shots for himself and converting open looks, and a slick out-of-bounds play gave Williams a corner 3 with under a minute left. But he was in the background in this one, a spot all too familiar.
Non-jump-shooting, aggressive Markel Brown! Also, benched after the first quarter Markel Brown.
The boos were endearing. The Iso-Joe mentality and rimmed-out threes were not. Major part of why the Nets were in the game late, but also why they struggled to regain the lead.
Young vs. Millsap is a surprisingly fun matchup, and Young showed off energy on both ends of the floor, highlighted by a put-back jam late in the fourth quarter. But he also struggled with Millsap’s physicality and converting looks inside.
The rare mega-double-double game that felt like it should’ve been much more.
In the first game of the playoffs, one of Brooklyn’s only advantages is the size and scoring touch of the giant man with a haircut, and… spend most of the first quarter avoiding him entirely and most of the game looking away from him.
The Nets have made a habit of getting Brook Lopez involved early, on a series of post-ups and pick-and-rolls with Deron Williams. That made it all the more staggering to see how little Lopez was involved in the team’s early offense, only scoring off put-backs and free throws for much of the first half.
The Hawks run an excellent defensive scheme, taking advantage of their quickness to keep a body on Lopez and recover to him after quickly showing on Brooklyn’s passive pick-and-roll attack. They also moved him out of position defensively on too many occasions.
His home-road shooting splits did not lie.