NEW YORK – The Hawks nearly ran past the Nets for a second straight game – and this time they did it even more short-handed.
The Hawks played without Al Horford, lost Lou Williams in the second quarter to a potentially serious knee injury and had DeShawn Stevenson and Anthony Morrow back home in Atlanta. Zaza Pachulia picked up his fifth foul early in the fourth quarter and fouled out with 2:50 remaining.
Yet the Hawks almost won again. Almost.
The Hawks went cold in the fourth quarter, making just two of their first 17 shots, as the Nets pulled away for a 94-89 victory at the Barclays Center Friday night. The big difference was the free-throw line where the Nets were 25 of 38 and the Hawks just 10 of 14.
The Hawks defeated the Nets Wednesday without leading scorer Josh Smith, who was serving a team-imposed one-game suspension.
“I always say that we have a group of guys that are like a puzzle,” Pachulia said. “All the pieces we have work together. It’s a long season. We still fought for 48 minutes. We gave ourselves a chance but just come up short.”
The Hawks trailed by eight points, 90-82 with less than two minutes remaining. They pulled within one point by scoring the next seven points, including a thunderous dunk by Smith after going coast-to-coast with 1:02 remaining. Deron Williams sunk four three-throws, the final two with 11.7 left after Brook Lopez blocked a Jeff Teague shot, to clinch the game.
The Hawks (22-17) lost for the seventh time in the past nine games. They had a six-game win streak against the Nets snapped.
Teague led the Hawks with 21 points. Devin Harris added 17 points. Smith finished with 12 points to raise his career-point total to 9,633, surpassing Eddie Johnson (9,631 points) for eighth on the Hawks’ all-time scoring chart.
“We missed some shots, they made some shots,” Harris said. “I think the big part of the game was we put them on the free-throw line at critical times. We had a tough whistle all night long. We tried to play through it. At the end of the day, they got some key buckets and went to the free-throw line and we struggled to score.”
The Nets (24-16) have won eight of their past nine, with the only loss coming to the Hawks. Williams led the way with 24 points. Lopez scored 20 points and former Hawk Joe Johnson scored 18.
The Hawks lost Williams with 7:12 remaining in the second quarter with an initial diagnosis of a right knee sprain but that could be worse. Williams was driving to the basket and pulled up without contact. He screamed out several times as he continued off the court without putting weight on his leg. After lying down in the entryway to the arena will be attended to by Hawks trainers, Williams was put in a wheelchair to be taken to the locker room.
The Hawks called the injury a sprain but Williams was to undergo further tests Saturday back in Atlanta. An X-ray Friday was negative but the more involved tests Saturday will determine the severity of the injury.
“We hope he comes back soon but that was a pretty tough looking injury,” Kyle Korver said. “I thought everyone responded well. I thought we played hard. I thought we stuck to the blueprint that we have to stick to to win. It was a tough loss but a step in the right direction.”
The teams went to the final quarter tied at 74-74 in a back-and-forth fast-breaking affair. The Nets took a six-point lead by scoring the first points of the third quarter. The Hawks answered with an 8-0 run setting up the decisive 12 minutes.
“We went a little cold but we were still right there,” coach Larry Drew said. “I thought offensively we really did some good things. Defensively, I thought we were just OK. We weren’t as good as we were the other night. It ended up at the free-throw line being too big a differential to overcome.”
The teams were tied 49-49 at the intermission. The Hawks shot 50 percent (20-40) through the first two quarters. They started the game making seven of their first eight shots. Teague and Harris each scored 11 points.
Williams and Johnson combined to score the Nets’ first 14 points. Williams had 18 first-half points.
Horford said after the game that while a day off won’t completely heal his sore hamstring and calf muscle it was very beneficial. He expects to play Saturday against the Spurs.
* Horford dressed out but did not play Friday as he is nursing a sore left hamstring and calf muscle that has bothered him for over a week. Horford did not participate in shootaround due to soreness.
“I’ve been playing him a lot of minutes,” Drew said. “That is something I have to be mindful of making sure I cut his minutes down. A lot of minutes won’t do him any good with the way the hamstring and the calf are feeling. I’ve got to keep a close eye on him.”
Drew admitted he faces a dilemma with wanted to keep the momentum of Wednesday’s victory over the Nets and protecting his ailing center. The Hawks started a stretch of three games in four days Friday. They also play the Spurs Saturday and the Timberwolves Monday afternoon.
Without Horford in the starting lineup the Hawks sent out Teague, Harris, Korver, Smith and Pachulia.
* The Hawks played without guards Stevenson (right knee) and Morrow (back) as both remained in Atlanta.
Stevenson had two injections in his ailing knee and is expected to be out until Monday.
Morrow missed his 12th consecutive game with a right hip and lower back injury.
* Smith finished eighth among Eastern Conference frontcourt players in fan balloting for the All-Star game. Smith finished with 187,174 votes, behind Joakim Noah (230,796) and ahead of Shane Battier (151,877).
Horford did not finish in the top 15 vote-getters among frontcourt players and Teague did not finish in the top 10 for backcourt players.