By Ian Parfrey @Ianparfrey
Are you impressed? You should be. The Nets (37-26) took care of a conference rival, on the road, whose quick guards and versatile big men had given them a headache in two prior meetings. The Nets had a 23-point lead a minute into the fourth quarter, committed only nine turnovers, and Brook Lopez and Andray Blatche gave a clinic in high-post scoring, with each of the Nets’ centers scoring 18 points.
The Hawks, coming off of an overtime loss in Boston last night, opened the game on an 11-1 run. Improbably, Net castoff Johan Petro started at center for Atlanta, and scored all 10 of his points in the first quarter. That was about all the fight the Hawks had in them. At the end of the first, the score was tied at 23. A 19-6 run, started by Joe Johnson and the bench unit, put the Nets in the driver’s seat, where they would stay for the rest of the game.
Brook Lopez made sure the third quarter went the Nets way, scoring 14 of his points in that period. Late in the quarter, Lopez took Ivan Johnson off the dribble from just inside the three-point arc, got all the way to the basket, made what looked like a running hook shot, and added a free throw when Johnson fouled him.
Joe Johnson scored only 8 points on 4-13 FG, and frequently heard boos from the Atlanta crowd. He did have one nice post-up against the much bigger Josh Smith, but was mostly a non-factor. Deron Williams followed up his historic 42-point, 11-three performance last night with a quietly effective 17 points and 6 assists.
The early part of the fourth quarter belonged to Andray Blatche, who had 18 points on 9-11 FG, and used his length to disrupt several Atlanta passes.
The Nets defense, after some early overreactions, settled down to force 17 turnovers, and held Josh Smith to 12 points. Al Horford led Atlanta with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Brooklyn remains 2.5 games behind the Knicks, who blew out the Utah Jazz at home tonight. The Nets are in action again Monday night in Philadelphia against the 76ers.