The Hawks re-discovered their fast-break game.
Yes, on this night, the team’s up-tempo style was no longer missing in action.
The Hawks ran past the Nets for a much-needed 109-95 victory Wednesday at Philips Arena as all five starters scored in double figures.
One regular starter was missing as Josh Smith was suspended for the game for conduct detrimental to the team. The Hawks ran their record to 3-0 in games without Smith this season, the wins coming against the Thunder, Pacers and Nets.
“This was a very big win for us,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “More mentally for the psyche after what we’ve gone through the last couple of weeks. … Early you could see that the energy was there. They took the attack to Brooklyn. You have to play that way when you’ve been struggling.”
The Hawks (22-16) snapped a two-game losing streak and won for only the second time in the past eight games. They ran their win streak over the Nets to six straight and eight in a row at Philips Arena.
The Hawks got double-doubles from three starters. Jeff Teague led the Hawks with 28 points and 11 assists. Al Horford added 17 points and 13 rebounds. Zaza Pachulia had 13 points and 11 rebounds and just missed a triple-double with a career-high eight assists. Devin Harris (18), Kyle Korver (11) and Lou Williams (11) rounded out the double-digit scorers. The Hawks held a 29-12 advantage in fast-break points and totaled 33 assists.
“We played a really good game tonight.” Teague said. “Guys played with a different pace tonight. Coach has been preaching play fast and we did that tonight.”
The Hawks led by as many as 26 points in the third quarter, the lead punctuated as Teague fed Horford for an alley-oop dunk that brought the home crowd to its feet. The Nets rallied with a 14-3 run but the Hawks took a 19-point lead into the final quarter. They would trim the deficit to 12 points but could not overcome the margin.
“I told you guys our practice on Tuesday was the best one all year and I think we came out and showed why,” Horford said. “Our focus was better and we just have to keep that up.”
The Nets (23-16), featuring six-time Hawks All-Star Joe Johnson, had their seven-game win streak snapped. Brook Lopez led the Nets with 22 points and Johnson had 15 points.
“As far as the game, it was great to be back and see some of the guys and have some fun but my main goal was to come in here and get a win,” said Johnson, who was booed every time he touched the ball. “It kind of hurts because it seems like from the start we just weren’t really into it tonight. We knew (the Hawks) weren’t going to let me play. We knew they were going to trap me every time I caught the ball. We just didn’t seem to make the right reads.”
The Hawks came out running from the start. They took a 16-point lead, 56-40, into halftime. The point total was a mere two points less than they scored in Monday’s embarrassing loss to the Bulls.
“We just needed a win,” Harris said. “Guys were willing to do whatever it took to get the win. Obviously everybody were embarrassed by the effort we gave last game. We definitely wanted to come out and play harder.”
Teague and Harris each scored 12 first-half points as the Hawks were on the break whenever possible. They finished the first two quarters with a 19-4 fast-break points advantage. Horford had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds by the intermission.
Now the goal is to keep it going.
“I think we are pro enough, we are smart enough, we have been in the league until time to realize when we play this way, good things happen,” Pachulia said. “We just have to find that energy, keep that energy, run and play the way we did today.”
The teams will play again in Brooklyn on Friday.
Drew said he will welcome Smith back with a hug before Thursday’s practice.
“There is no different style,” Drew said of playing without Smith. “We put emphasis on pace and getting out and running. I think tonight we did a terrific job at that. Tonight, we were good. We were good tonight. With Josh, we are better. That is just the bottom line. It will be good to get Josh back tomorrow and I’m glad it’s not a situation where he will be out another game because we missed him tonight. Our guys responded tonight.”