It’s just the Hawks’ luck that as go-to scorer and playmaker Trae Young was ruled out with left hamstring pain, Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving returned to the court for the first time since Nov. 14.
Young paves the way for Atlanta on offense, with his absence putting the Hawks in a tough spot — they couldn’t get much of anything going in an anemic 108-86 loss to the Nets Sunday in Brooklyn.
Falling to 8-32, the Hawks continue to own the worst record in the NBA and are dead last in the Eastern Conference standings.
“I feel like everybody on the team wanted to come out and obviously get a rhythm, find a nice flow to the game,” said John Collins, who finished with eight points and five rebounds. “Find each other in stride… We didn’t hit a lot of 3’s, a lot of open shots that we’d normally make, that also makes tonight tougher. I can’t really put a point on it.”
Outside of rookie Cam Reddish, who had a career-high five steals and led the team in scoring with 20 points, the Hawks looked out of sorts on offense and couldn’t contain the Nets on defense. This is the second time Reddish has had individual success against the Nets, as he had 25 points, six rebounds and three steals in the Hawks’ loss Dec. 4 in Brooklyn.
Irving led the Nets with 21 points in a little less than 20 minutes, to go with four rebounds and three assists. He made 10 of 11 shot attempts, and that .909 field-goal percentage is a career-high. In Young’s absence, two-way player and backup point guard Brandon Goodwin started and tallied eight points, four rebounds and three assists.
The Hawks shot 33% from the field, which is a season-low, to the Nets’ 53.2% and were crushed on the boards, tallying 33 rebounds to the Nets’ 62. Alex Len added 10 points and four rebounds for the Hawks, and DeAndre’ Bembry added 12 points, three rebounds and three assists.
The game got away from Hawks early, as they looked flat to start and trailed 37-16 after shooting 25% from the field (6-for-24) to the Nets’ 70% (14-for-20) in the first quarter. They couldn’t make up for that big lapse or gain much ground in the rest of the way.
Still, the Hawks had a few flashes in the second, including a step-back 3-pointer from Reddish at the 3:20 mark and a hard-fought driving layup by Vince Carter with 39 seconds to go, which was met with a roar of applause from the crowd praising Carter on his final trip to Brooklyn. (Carter played for the New Jersey Nets from 2004-09).
“It’s been an emotional roller coaster this year,” Carter said. “People showing love has been great. For all these years you go there and you’re their opponent and they’re booing you. Obviously to come back here, and some of the other stops I’ve played for, and to receive a standing ovation one last time is great.”
Trailing 70-46 at halftime, the Hawks’ deficit reached 39 (the largest of the game) after a cutting layup by Caris LeVert at the 5:34 mark in the third quarter.
Carter, who finished with eight points, two rebounds and three steals, hit two 3’s in the fourth quarter, his second making it 105-82 with just over three minutes to play.
Although the Hawks forced 16 steals, with the Nets tallying 24 turnovers to the Hawks’ 12, the Hawks weren’t able to capitalize in the loss.
The Hawks return home and will face the Phoenix Suns (15-23) 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at State Farm Arena.
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