1. Nets show grit, toughness
The Brooklyn Nets had lost 12 straight games when falling into a double-digit hole this season and they faced a huge deficit very quickly against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.
Atlanta went up 22-11 on a pair of Alex Len free throws midway through the first quarter and went up 18 late in the period on a layup by Trae Young before D’Angelo Russell hit a step-back 3 to get it back to 38-23.
The Hawks were getting just about anything they wanted inside, with John Collins going for 12 first-quarter points.
The Nets had Joe Harris back in the starting lineup after he missed Monday’s loss to the Boston Celtics and DeMarre Carroll made his first appearance midway through the first quarter after he also sat in Boston Monday night.
In that game, Brooklyn looked disconnected offensively and had several defensive miscommunications on defense while getting blown out by the Celtics. Early on Wednesday, even with Harris and Carroll back, the Nets still had that disjointed look to them.
Shots weren’t falling. Passes weren’t crisp. Atlanta was basically running a layup line on offense.
Russell told NBA TV after the game that the coaching staff issues a challenge to them when the deficit got to 19 in the second quarter.
The Nets had the advantage of time. At the point they fell behind 46-27, there was still 9:02 to go in the second quarter and an entire second half to play.
Brooklyn showed some of the maturity and composure it has gained this season. Instead of panicking, the Nets went to work chipping away at the deficit.
An 11-0 run got the margin back to eight with 5:38 left in the half. The Nets got it to five late in the half before heading to intermission down six — a manageable deficit, a two-possession game.
The Nets shot 2-for-12 from 3-point range in the first half, turned the ball over eight times, were getting hammered on the glass 28-20, had surrendered a 15-2 deficit on second-chance points … and only trailed by six.
Joe Harris banged down three 3s in the third quarter as the Nets outscored the Hawks 35-23, closing the quarter on a 9-0 run to take an 86-80 lead.
In the fourth quarter, Carroll — the former Hawk — scored 10 points, knocked down a pair of 3s. and the Nets forced seven Hawk turnovers and held Atlanta to 8-for-22 shooting in the quarter.
Brooklyn took a 20-point lead late before settling for a 16-point win.
What could have been a terrible loss to a lower-echelon team instead turned into a terrific comeback and a rallying point to build from.
It was a big test for a young, improving team and the Brooklyn Nets passed it.