I’ve seen this dance before.
The Hawks opened up the game with a hot start that highlighted the stylistic differences between these two teams: off-ball movement and spacing by Atlanta was feebly countered by Brooklyn’s shot creators, who looked to create mismatches and find open teammates off double-teams. The Nets came back in a series of runs against Atlanta’s second unit, with one bench player (Jarrett Jack in Games 1 and 2, Alan Anderson Wednesday night) providing a surprise spark.
The Nets then got it close enough in the fourth quarter to ensure that you’d be watching through the final buzzer. Maybe Joe Johnson hit two big three-pointers after airballing a wide-open one. Maybe Jarrett Jack, perhaps the worst above-the-corners three-point shooter in the league, hits two from the left wing in a fourth-quarter run in which he scored 12 consecutive Nets points.
But in Atlanta, against the 60-win, equal-opportunity Atlanta Hawks, one or two mistakes don the stretch — whether it be a poor pass into the beak of the Hawks defense or an open lane for Jeff Teague to swoop down for a layup — proved too costly to overcome. This was C+ game when they needed an A to pull it off.
We put up the odds earlier: the Nets face a 91.9 percent chance of elimination, given the NBA’s history of best-of-seven series. They’re long odds, which to some degree, they’ve faced all along.
But I’m done counting them out. Because, I mean: do you think this series is over?
5 PTS, 2-8 FG, 6 REB, 6 AST, 1 STL, 2 TOV
You couldn’t expect another 35-point performance, but Williams looked far more like shaky Games 1-3 Deron Williams than anything he produced Monday night: drives to the basket ended without ceremony, long-distance shots clanged off the rim, and Williams did not have a moment when he controlled the pulse of the game.
7 PTS, 3-8 FG, 1-4 3PT, 2 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 1 TOV
He fits well in the starting lineup. He makes smart plays, and rarely commandeers the offense, a couple of first-quarter possessions aside. But if — if — this series ends up going seven games, Hollins should consider starting Anderson over Bogdanovic in the closer. Not because Bogdanovic is a bad player, but his driving floater and fourth-quarter three-pointer aside, his home-road shooting splits are too egregious to ignore.
18 PTS, 7-15 FG, 3-8 3PT, 9 REB, 4 AST
Some flashes of what makes Johnson effective, like that pretty step-back jumper in the third quarter over DeMarre Carroll, and those two crazy three-pointers in the fourth quarter that followed an airball.
11 PTS, 5-10 FG, 4 REB, 1 AST
Didn’t do much to stand out.
15 PTS, 4-13 FG, 7-7 FT, 3 REB, 2 AST, 3 BLK
A surprisingly quiet game from Lopez — he had a few nice blocks, deterred some shots at the rim, and the short floater is as unstoppable as ever, but have to imagine given his increasing production in this series that the Nets could’ve pulled this out had Lopez put up another 26-10 game.
18 PTS, 7-13 FG, 2-3 3PT, 6 AST, 4 REB, 2 STL, 3 TOV
It looked like Jack was careening to the mean after two effective, controlled games: his first half was punctuated by wild drives and off-balance shots. Jack then hit a couple of his patented big shots in the fourth quarter, even scoring 12 straight Brooklyn points, including the aforementioned two three-pointers, at one point in the final frame. But he quickly regressed once more, and turnovers and missed shots built en route to the loss.
Some credit for that gutsy fourth quarter, but maybe it’s a compounding problem, though: if Jack doesn’t toss away a few possessions in the first three quarters, the fourth-quarter outburst means that much more.
23 PTS, 9-11 FG, 4-4 3PT, 1-1 FT, 7 REB, 2 TOV
We’ve met this Alan Anderson. This Alan Anderson was a major factor during last year’s playoff run, sliding into Jason Kidd’s starting lineup and forcing Toronto to step out on the perimeter, opening the paint for Brooklyn’s lead scorers.
But this time, Anderson called his own number, popping in 16 first-half points on a variety of efficient looks: corner three-pointers, dunks, and mostly clean shots. He kept the train rolling in the third quarter. His defense on Carroll & Korver was admirable, though not enough.
But most importantly, we have a new nickname for Anderson: “Pocket Aces.” Because when you’ve got him, you’ve got the hidden advantage.