Atlanta scores 41 points in third quarter to send New Jersey packing
POSTED: May 2, 2015 12:03 AM ET
Hawks vs. Nets Game 6
Paul Millsap scores 25 points, Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll each add 20 as the Hawks rout the Nets to move on to face Washington in the second round.
BROOKLYN — All that was missing was a ceremonial exchange of draft picks at the end of the third quarter.
It took them 5 1/2 games, but the Atlanta Hawks finally did what they were supposed to do against a team that was 22 games below them in the regular season standings.
They blew them out.
After a competitive first half, Atlanta began the third quarter on an 18-3 run, cruising from there to a 111-87 victory over the Brooklyn Nets in Game 6 of their first round series. They now move on to a conference semifinals matchup with the Washington Wizards that begins Sunday in Atlanta (1 p.m. ET, ABC).
For the first time in the series, this looked like a top-10 offense vs. a bottom-10 defense. The Hawks moved the ball and the Nets couldn't keep up. Kyle Korver (6-for-10 from 3-point range) broke free, while the starting frontline screened, rolled and cut their way to 63 combined points on 24-for-37 shooting.
And when Jeff Teague got his hands on a couple of Deron Williams passes in the first two minutes of the third quarter, the Hawks got to running, registering 16 of their 23 fast break points in the period. Teague didn't score a point, but kept Williams in check, while dishing out 13 assists and committing just one turnover.
"His presence and his fingerprints were all over the game," Korver said of his point guard. "It's one of the best games I've ever seen Jeff play. His focus and energy really fueled that third quarter."
The Hawks are still a little banged up. Horford dislocated his pinky finger on his shooting hand, which seemed to affect him as he shot 17-for-55 from outside the restricted area in the series. Millsap is still dealing with a sprained right shoulder, that has him "adjusting on the fly, altering a few things."
With the Eastern Conference well in hand once they beat the Cavs for a third time in early March, Atlanta lost some of its momentum over the final month of the season. And they didn't look like a 60-win team for much of this series.
But Game 6 was clearly their best. And the short turnaround before the conference semifinals might allow them to take some momentum into Game 1 against Washington.
"We lost Game 4, and you never want that to happen," Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "But I think we were moving in the right direction, 4, 5, 6. At the end of the day, you got to get back to work and get prepared for Game 1. If you assume anything, you're in trouble. But I think this was great for us, to play playoff basketball, to compete like you have to in the playoffs."
"We didn't play that well the first three games," Korver added. "I didn't think we had our edge. I think coming here and losing two kind of woke us up. I think we can still play better, but we come out of this series playing better than we did going into the playoffs, for sure."
The Nets are left to figure out where they go from here. With a hefty payroll for another year and with the 29th pick in the NBA Draft, there's little flexibility to improve on a roster that finished six games under .500 and was outscored by 236 points in the regular season.
Head coach Lionel Hollins did find some things that worked after the All-Star break and in this series. But it was too little, too late. The Nets' defense was generally terrible and the only one of their highly-paid former All-Stars who played somewhat consistently was Brook Lopez, who was almost traded at the deadline and who can opt out of the final year of his contract this summer.
Williams, who scored 35 points in Game 4 but shot 14-for-44 in the other five games and committed the two turnovers that helped spark the Hawks' third-quarter run on Friday, has two years left on his contract. Joe Johnson, the reason why these teams are exchanging picks and who too often stopped the ball in this series, has one more year left on his.
The Hawks have won a playoff series for the first time since they shed Johnson's contract. Now they look to go further than he ever took them. And for the first time in the last couple of weeks, they look like a team that can do just that.
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