The Nets played some of their best defense of the season on Saturday afternoon at Barclays Center on their way to a 91-83 win over the Atlanta Hawks in Game 3. Atlanta now leads the series 2-1, with Game 4 Monday night in Brooklyn.
The Nets came out firing in this one, jumping out to a 14-3 lead. Atlanta then cut it to 19-14, and the Nets closed the first on a 12-2 run capped by four points from Thaddeus Young and a thunderous dunk from Brook Lopez to lead 31-16 at the end of the first. The Hawks came back a bit in the second, outscoring the Nets 24-16 to trail 47-40 at halftime.
In the third, the Nets led 58-51 on a Lopez jumper at the 6:01 mark. Atlanta responded with an 11-0 run capped by a couple of free throws from Pero Antic to make it 62-58 Hawks at the 2:58 mark of the third.
The Nets would hold them scoreless until the 7:45 mark of the fourth, and in that seven minute-plus stretch, the Nets went on a game-deciding 18-0 run. Lopez capped it off with the last six points, including on a reverse lay-up to make it 76-62 Brooklyn.
Joe Johnson said of what stuck out most in the 18-0 run, “Well, obviously, we got stops and we got out in transition and got some easy baskets, got a couple around the bucket; Brook. I think I made a three, Bogey was knocking down shots; J. Jack (Jarrett Jack) was just being aggressive.”
Jarrett Jack said of giving up the lead and then responding with the 18-0 run, “It’s just us settling down, relaxing and breathing and just taking advantage of what got us the lead in the first place. Not making too many quick plays. I saw some advantages with Joe (Johnson) and Brook (Lopez) in the low post and really wanted to exploit those. They did a good job of scoring and when they did bring a double or post themselves in situations where they didn’t have a shot, they were willing passers and guys came and made plays. Bojan (Bogdanovic) knocked down big buckets, Alan (Anderson) did all the dirty work for us, a number of guys chipped in. Thad (Young), hell of a game he had, bounce back game for him, we’re going to take these positives and try to move on to Monday.”
The closest Atlanta got down the stretch was eight points, at 89-81, with 15.2 seconds left on a Jeff Teague lay-up.
The Nets were led by Lopez, who had 22 points on 7-for-18 from the field, with 8 free throws, and 13 rebounds. Lopez is averaging 19.7 points-per-game and 11.3 rebounds-per-game in the three games in this series. He has posted two double-doubles, including this game, and has scored 20+ points in eight of his ten career playoff games.
Bojan Bogdanovic stepped up with a big game of 19 points on 7-for-13 from the field, 3-7 on threes, 3 rebounds, and an assist. Thaddeus Young had 18 points on 8-for-16 from the field, with 11 rebounds, and 3 assists. The performances of Bogdanovic and Young arguably were the difference in the game. Bogdanovic said of helping to build the team’s lead, “We played great defense, especially in the first half and the end of the third when we went 18-0, I think. Great, great team effort.”
Joe Johnson notched 16 points (5-17 FG, 2-7 on threes), with 10 rebounds and 5 assists. It is Johnson’s second career playoff double-double and his first since April 28, 2011 while he played for Atlanta against Orlando.
Joe Johnson said of what was different in this one than the first two games of the series, “We got off to a great start and we fed off the crowd tonight. The crowd was great, we fed off their energy. Even though they made a run and got back in it and took the lead, we kept our composure and were able to regain the lead and just go from there.”
Deron Williams had another rough game, putting in just 3 points on a pathetic 1-for-8 shooting, 1-4 on threes, with 7 rebounds and 6 assists. This was the latest in tough performances for Williams in this series, and he was pulled right before the decisive 18-0 run from the third into the fourth quarter. Jarrett Jack, D-Will’s backup at point guard, had 5 points (1-3 FG, 1-1 on threes), 8 assists, and 5 rebounds, and the team has generally done much better in this series with him on the court.
The Nets defense held Atlanta to 35.6 percent shooting, or 32-for-90, and 6-for-30 on three-pointers. Johnson said of what the Nets changed up on defense, “Just us playing here at home. It gives us extra motivation, that energy boost that we need. Guys really talking, communicating, moving on defense, and switching, switching a lot. Not letting (Kyle) Korver come off and get wide open looks.” Korver was held to 2 points on 1-for-8 shooting and 0-for-5 on threes in 38 minutes.
Johnson said of finally beating Atlanta after losing six straight to them in the regular season and playoffs, “I think we knew we could beat this team. In both games (in the playoffs in Atlanta), going down the stretch we had chances to win the game. And knowing we were coming home to a great crowd that was going to make this a hostile environment for us and like I said, we got off to a great start. That catapulted us into another level. Games 1 and 2 down early, 13, 14 points, and now you’re uphill climbing the whole game and that takes a lot out of you coming down the stretch. So we were able to kind of regain that tonight. And, at the end, just kind of put them away.”