NBA Basketball

Hawks, Nets hope to tighten up defensively in rematch

It may be difficult to achieve what the offenses of the Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets showcased Wednesday.

And coaches Lloyd Pierce and Steve Nash are probably hoping to avoid seeing their defenses give up over 140 points again.

But two nights after one of the highest-scoring NBA games in recent seasons, the teams get together again when the Hawks visit the Nets on Friday night.

Both teams enter their second meeting among the highest-scoring teams in the league after Brooklyn emerged with a 145-141 win Wednesday. Pierce's Hawks are averaging 128.8 points per game while Brooklyn is averaging 121.6 five games into Nash's tenure.

The teams combined for 286 points, well behind the all-time record of 370 combined points set in Detroit's 186-184 win at Denver on Dec. 13, 1983. It also was the latest high-scoring game between the teams after Atlanta scored 141 on Brooklyn in a 23-point home win Feb. 28. Brooklyn also got 144 on the Hawks in a 17-point win on Dec. 16, 2018.

On Wednesday, the Nets entered the game as the league's top defense after not allowing more than 116 points in the first four games. They allowed a 41-point first quarter, 18 3-pointers and allowed the Hawks to shoot 47.5 percent.

"We came in No. 1 defensively," Nash said after quipping he needed a beer. "That went out the window. They have a ton of shooters playing with confidence. It was a new challenge. We have to get better at that end of the floor."

The difference came down to the fourth quarter when the Nets saw Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving combine for 33 of their 43 points. Durant flirted with a triple-double by totaling 33 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists while Irving scored 17 of his 25 in the fourth after missing 13 of his first 16 shots.

The duo has scored at least 20 points in the four games they have played and enter Friday among the NBA's scoring leaders by each averaging 28.3 points.

"Their names speak for themselves," Brooklyn center Jarrett Allen said. "The names speak for themselves. When it gets to crunch time, we know where the ball needs to go and they proved why."

The Hawks are hoping the fourth quarter goes differently this time after scoring their most points in regulation in team history and getting 30 points apiece from Trae Young and John Collins. It occurred after the Hawks allowed an average of 112 points in their first three wins.

Ultimately those performances were done in by Atlanta allowing Brooklyn to 64 percent in the fourth and an offense that was unable to keep pace by shooting 42 percent when Young and Collins combined for 18 of their 37 points.

"We know we can beat this team," said Pierce, who was a college teammate of Nash at Santa Clara.

"We've got to learn to execute. We've got to learn to finish down the stretch, we've got to put together a defensive fourth quarter. This is what finishing is about execution on both sides of the basketball."

Atlanta's fourth-quarter fade denied the Hawks their first 4-0 start since opening 2010-11 with six straight wins and dropped them to 2-13 in the past 15 meetings with Brooklyn.

--Field Level Media

Updated December 31, 2020

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