The Atlanta Hawks finally looked like the top seed in the Eastern Conference as they outscored the Nets 41-21 in the third quarter on their way to a 111-87 win in Game 6 on Friday night at Barclays Center to win the series 4 games to 2.
Hawks guard DeMarre Carroll said of what the difference was between this game and the first five in the series, “I think we came out with a great attitude. I think we came out kind of mad, kind of pissed off, but at the same time, we did what house basketball is supposed to do – that’s move the ball, play in sections, and do it on defense.”
Carroll continued on playing mad and with a chip on their shoulder, “Yeah. We just get mad. When we get mad, we play the right way; and we should be mad more often. Sometimes we get in a good place and get happy, but you always gotta be mad, you always gotta have a point to prove, and I’ve been living like that my whole life – with a chip on my shoulder, so I think this is good for us and I think everybody in the locker room is feeding off Coach (Mike Budenholzer) and his attitude and I think that’s a big thing.”
The Hawks came out firing, as Kyle Korver had 11 points in the first quarter to help give them a 36-23 lead at the end of the opening frame. The Hawks could not keep up the momentum, and theNets pulled to within six points, at 51-45, at halftime.
Then, in the third quarter, the Hawks finally showed why they were the top seed in the Eastern Conference. They came out firing, opening the third on an 8-0 run that turned into a 23-3 run capped by a Korver three-pointer that made it 74-48 Hawks at the 6:39 mark. The Nets only got as close as 21 the rest of the way, and the Hawks closed the third on a Dennis Schroder lay-up in the final second that made it 92-68 Hawks entering the fourth.
Korver said on defense being the key to the 23-3 run, “Totally. I think it all started with Jeff (Teague). I thought his pressuring the ball was amazing. We got some steals, and we got to get out and run. And I don’t think that Jeff scored a point tonight, but his presence and fingerprints were all over the game and I thought it was one of the best games that I’ve ever seen Jeff play. His focus and energy really fueled that third quarter, I thought.”
In the third quarter, Atlanta outscored the Nets 41-21. The Hawks made 16 of 24 baskets, or 66.7 percent of their shots, and 6-for-9 on threes for the same percentage. The Nets shot just 31.8 percent, or 7-for-22, in the third quarter. The Nets also made a costly six turnovers in the third.
In the fourth, the Hawks were maintaining a 25-point edge. the Nets got as close as 18, at 100-82 on a Mason Plumlee dunk with 5:03 left. DeMarre Carroll got to the line on the ensuing possession for Atlanta, and made the first free throw.
At this point, Hawks Head Coach Mike Budenholzer went back to Korver and Schroder to try to prevent a Nets comeback. Remarkably, at the same time, Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins pulled Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Mason Plumlee, and Jarrett Jack. and sending in Jerome Jordan, Darius Morris, Earl Clark, and Markel Brown to close out garbage time.
The Hawks were led by Paul Millsap, who had 25 points on 9-for-15 from the field, 2-for-4 on threes, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists. DeMarre Carroll had 20 points on 7-for-8 from the field, 3-4 on threes, 5 rebounds, and an assist. Kyle Korver had 20 points on 6-for-10 from the field, and all his attempts were behind the arc, with 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Jeff Teague did not score (0-5 FG, 0-1 threes), but he had 13 assists to pace the Hawks.
Hawks Head Coach Mike Budenholzer said of the Nets, “I’d just like to say how well overall – over the course of six games – how well Brooklyn has played. What a great job Coach Lionel Hollins has done, not just in this series, but down the stretch of the regular season. They were everything and more than we expected, adding different players and putting the team together – a lot of respect for Coach Hollins and his players, the challenge that our group was able to meet tonight.
Budenholzer said of the series, “I guess overall in the series our defense is what we wanted to make a priority. I think we had four pretty good defensive quarters. The offense kind of comes and goes and that sort of happens in a game, in a series. If we could continue to focus on our defense and be good there. Individually, a lot of guys stepped up and played well. Jeff Teague, without scoring a point, I thought controlled the game, made huge plays to start the third quarter, creating turnovers in transition. Then you go up and down the list of the other four starters: Paul Millsap, DeMarre Carroll in foul trouble still having a huge contribution, and of course, Kyle Korver and Al Horford. So those five guys were great. We got a little more from the bench tonight.”