Hawks’ defense leads them to win vs. Nets

Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Harris (12) passes the ball in front of Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Harris (12) passes the ball in front of Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Credit: Adam Hunger

Credit: Adam Hunger

Two days after letting a lead slip away to the Nets in the fourth quarter, the Hawks didn’t make the same mistake twice, moving to 4-1 with a 114-96 win in Brooklyn Friday.

Next up, for the second half of their first back-to-back of the season, the Hawks return home to host the Cavaliers at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Below are some takeaways from the win:

1. The 3-point line and the Hawks’ increased defensive efforts made the difference in this win. Brooklyn started out 0-for-10 from 3-point range and the Hawks led 29-23 after the first quarter. The Nets didn’t make their first 3 of the night until Kevin Durant’s pull-up at the 6:28 mark in the second quarter. In a stark contrast from the Hawks’ loss to the Nets Wednesday (when Brooklyn shot 46.3% from 3-point range, or 19-for-41, and scored 145 points), the Hawks limited them from long distance and made them take tough shots (they ended up at 18.9% or 7-for-37 from 3, to the Hawks’ 41%, or 16-for-39). Brooklyn went 1-for-16 from 3 point range in the first half, with Atlanta leading 61-52 heading into the third. Thanks to their scrappy defense and the Nets struggling mightily from 3, the Hawks led by 16 heading into the fourth quarter. “I thought we came out way more in-tune to who they are and where they hurt us, and just competed from start to finish,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “It was really good to see. ... Our defensive effort was tremendous and our guys, top to bottom were all involved in that.”

2. The fourth quarter was the Hawks’ demise in their prior loss to Brooklyn, as their narrow lead was erased and Durant and Kyrie Irving went off — this time, it was a different story, as the Hawks showed they can not only hang with, but beat presumptive playoff teams in the East. They limited the Nets to 23 points in the fourth (and 21 in the third) and kept them under 100 points. With about three minutes to go and the Hawks leading by 15, Durant and Irving went to the bench, as did another starter in Joe Harris, done for the night. Durant finished with 28 points and Irving had 18, but the Nets’ supporting cast had a quiet night, which helped the Hawks maintain their lead.

3. Entering the game, Clint Capela had looked a half-step slow in his past two outings after missing the first two games of the season with left Achilles soreness and not playing in an NBA game since Jan. 29 when he was still with Houston. Of course, until a few months ago, he had dealt with a nagging right heel injury for nearly a year, so it’s understandable. Capela looked much more comfortable and aggressive in Friday’s win, finishing with a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds. He also had a career-high six assists. “I thought today, he just brought it. ... He had a tremendous mindset tonight and it was good to see him get rewarded with some baskets at the rim, and him make some plays for some other guys, as well,” Pierce said.

4. De’Andre Hunter was ultra-efficient and confident on offense, and had a solid defensive game, as well. Hunter didn’t miss a shot until the third quarter, opening up the game 6-for-6 from the field and finishing 9-for-10 overall and 3-for-4 from 3-point range, leading the Hawks with 23 points, to go with six rebounds. In addition, he did a good job of limiting Irving.

5. With Trae Young’s fourth assist of the night, he reached 1,250 career assists (in his 146th game). Young added 21 points and led the team with seven assists total.

Stat of the game

8 (the amount of steals the Hawks had, with Kevin Huerter grabbing four and Brandon Goodwin, Cam Reddish, Young and Solomon Hill each grabbing one)

Star of the game

Hunter (defended Irving well, and led the Hawks in scoring)

Quotable

“I feel like we proved that we are real contenders in the East. ... We are not a joke.” (John Collins, who added 20 points and eight rebounds, on what this win says about the Hawks, as they try to go from 20-47 last year to the playoffs this year)

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