Kyle Korver drains a three-pointer and celebrates as Nets’ Bojan Bogdanovic looks on.
ATLANTA – For the third time Sunday, the Nets had battled to make it interesting. Thaddeus Young darted to the basket and received a pass from Joe Johnson, converting a runner to cut the deficit to four with 1:30 remaining.
But that was it for the Nets, the high point and turning point.
Jeff Teague buried a shot on the other end, and later two free throws. Johnson missed a jumper. The game and the potential for stealing homecourt advantage slipped away, and the Nets lost Game 1 at Philips Arena, 99-92.
The Nets were what most everybody assumed on Sunday. They were decent enough to hang around, and Brook Lopez was especially effective in the paint while capitalizing on his size advantage.
But the eighth seed also missed too many shots, turned the ball over too many times. Atlanta swept the Nets in four games of the regular season and, on Sunday, the top seed – a team with a 60-22 record in the regular season but without much playoff experience – struggled more than usual. Kyle Korver, the 3-point specialist, drilled Brooklyn for 21 points, including 15 from beyond the arc. Five Atlanta players scored in double figures.
For the Nets, Brook Lopez grabbed 14 boards with 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting. The center’s touches were limited because Atlanta collapsed in the paint, and his teammates couldn’t hit jumpers as the turnovers mounted (17 for the game).
Even Brook Lopez’s 17 points and 14 rebounds are not enough for the Nets to overcome the top-seeded Hawks in Game 1.
Joe Johnson, the former Hawk who was bombarded by boos each time he touched the ball, missed 11 of his 17 attempts. Deron Williams only had two assists in 33 minutes. Thaddeus Young committed four turnovers while missing nine of his 16 shots.
The Nets were smacked in the first quarter, falling into a 16-point hole while looking overmatched on both ends of the floor. Turnovers were the problem early, with the Nets committing 11 in the first half that resulted in 17 points for Atlanta.
The Hawks set the pace with their speed and athleticism, which Lionel Hollins warned about in his pregame press conference.
“If we execute on offense, the pace will be slow. If we turn the ball over, the pace will be fast,” he said. “I think that is shown in the games we’ve played against them. When we turn the ball over, we’ve gotten shattered. If we can take care of the ball, execute and score – we’ve missed a lot of chippies at times and we’ve missed wide open shots at times. If we score, it’s natural that we can get back on defense and the pace will just naturally slow down.
“We’re going to keep it at our pace. We want to play fast on offense but we don’t want to get up and down and get into a rat race.”
The Nets settled down midway through the second quarter, though, and that poise carried over following the break when they cut the deficit to 3 with a run in the third quarter. That transitioned to a four-minute stretch for Brooklyn without a bucket, and the Nets fell down by double-digits again before their “To impose your will, to me, is the biggest thing,” Hollins said. “It’s a battle for 48 minutes and the minute you blink, you’ll be down 10. You have to stay after it, you have to make shots, you can’t turn the ball over.”
Jeff Teague breezes by Nets’ Deron Williams as he drives to the basket.
Mirza Teletovic was ruled out of Game 1 just two days after being medically cleared to resume contact basketball.
The 29-year-old, who had been treated with blood thinners until recently because of clots in his lungs, traveled with the Nets to Atlanta but simply didn’t have enough practices under his belt, according to Hollins.
“The guy’s been off for three months,” the coach said. “He’s had two practices. You can’t expect a guy to come out and play.”
The Nets have two more practices before Game 2, both at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Teletovic was originally ruled out for the season after the blood-clot diagnosis in January, but the Bosnian sharpshooter was cleared just before the playoffs.
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