ATLANTA, March 26 (Ticker) --
With a playoff spot already secured, the New Jersey Nets did not seem very interested in winning. Jacque Vaughn
tied a career high with 18 points and Shareef Abdur-Rahim
also scored 18 as the Atlanta Hawks rolled to a 103-77 victory over the Nets, who suffered their worst lost of the season less than 24 hours after earning a playoff berth.
New Jersey became the first team in the Eastern Conference to clinch a trip to the playoffs when the Miami Heat lost on Monday night. The Nets took a three-game winning streak into Philips Arena but played as if their work for the season was finished.
"If (clinching a playoff spot) had anything to do with it, then we’re in very big trouble once the playoffs starts, I’ll tell you that right now," Nets coach Byron Scott said. "We got beat in every facet in the game. I have no way of knowing why that would happen, to be honest with you. They should be very embarrassed. That was a horse(bleep) of a game, the way we played."
NBA TV highlights from|
E.piphany of the Day:
Richard Jefferson was the lone bright spot for the Nets, finishing just a point shy of his career-high with 21.
New Jersey shot only 40 percent (29-of-72) from the field and committed 25 turnovers leading to 26 points for Atlanta, which shot 50 percent (40-of-80) from the floor and made 6-of-14 3-pointers.
The Hawks took over in the second quarter, when they made 16-of-24 shots. Atlanta's bench scored 30 points in the period while New Jersey only managed 25 as a team.
"(Atlanta) shot the heck out of the ball in the first half,"
Scott said. "They got to go wherever they wanted to go and do whatever they wanted to do. We didn’t put up a fight. That is what is most disturbing to me. It was a terrible display of basketball."
The game was tied, 31-31, with 7:26 remaining in the second before the Hawks went on a 17-4 run. Alan Henderson scored eight of his 12 points and fellow reserve Toni Kukoc
added five of his 13 during the spurt, which gave Atlanta a 48-35 cushion with 3:31 left. Jason Kidd
capped a 6-0 run to bring the Nets within 63-53 with 8:13 remaining in the third, but Hawks swingman Ira Newble scored five consecutive points and New Jersey never got closer than 13 thereafter.
Atlanta had its largest lead, 101-73, after a jumper by DerMarr Johnson
with 2:02 remaining and cruised to its sixth straight victory at Philips Arena.
"To win, and win convincingly against a team of that magnitude is a big confidence booster for us," said Abdur-Rahim, who made 7-of-12 shots. "We’re trying to get where they are. It builds confidence and lets us know how good we can be if we come out and focus that way and play that way every night." Jason Terry
scored 13 points and Johnson added 11 and tied a season high with 10 rebounds for the Hawks, who saw their reserves outscore the Nets' bench, 45-21.
"We got a lot of good help from the bench," Atlanta coach Lon Kruger said. "We got good contributions from a lot of the guys.
We felt really good about that. A very solid 48 minutes. It was as consistently as we’ve played all year."
Although the playoffs seem out of the picture, the Hawks have won seven of their last nine games and are six games behind the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 12 games remaining.
Rookie Richard Jefferson
had 21 points and seven rebounds and Keith Van Horn
added 11 and seven for the Nets, who are just 2 1/2 games ahead of the Detroit Pistons for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
"It’s a very disappointing loss," Van Horn said. "We can’t come out with that lack of energy on the road. We aren’t going to win many games doing that. There was a serious lack of energy.
For whatever reason, collectively as a team, no one really came out with the fire we should have. They were playing like they were the first place team."
Kidd had just 10 points and three assists while committing six turnovers. He was bothered by flu-like symptoms and did not play in the fourth quarter.
New Jersey played without starting forward Kenyon Martin
, who served the first of a two-game suspension for picking up his eighth flagrant foul of the season in the opener of the home-and-home series Sunday.