Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta Hawks battle for seeding in Georgia

Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

The Nets are coming off wins against the East's worst. The Hawks lost to the East's hottest team in OT.

At some point Friday night, Boeing 737's carrying the Nets and Hawks were flying, if not side-by-side then along the same route south to Atlanta. The Nets were no doubt on the more exhilarating flight, coming off a historic win at Barclays Center while the Hawks had to be a bit down. They lost in overtime to the Celtics, missing an opportunity at the end of regulation to end Boston's nine-game winning streak at TD Garden.

Saturday, the two teams will battle in Atlanta, a contest between teams in the fourth and sixth seeds in the East. A Nets win would also give them a 2-1 edge over the Hawks with a game to go. With the Nets owning a number of tiebreakers against several conference teams, that won't be unimportant come April.

The Hawks played well enough to win, playing a hot Celtics team, but Paul Pierce carried Boston to the win, scoring 27 and dishing the winning assist to Jason Terry. Atlanta played without Zaza Pachulia and Ivan Johnson, both of whom are questionable for the Nets as well. They started Johan Petro (oh yes, they did) and he could go up against Brook Lopez as well Saturday. Petro scored two points and grabbed four rebounds.

Atlanta was carried by Josh Smith with 32, Jeff Teague with 26 and Al Horford with 22 and 13. The Hawks have lost four of their last five. But three of those four losses were to the Lakers, Nuggets and Celtics, all of whom are hot. The other loss was to the lowly Suns.

The Nets, of course, are coming off two wins against two of the NBA's worst teams. As P.J. Carleismo pointed out post-game, Deron Williams phenomenal game covered up some nagging issues, including inconsistency from the second unit. Still, a Nets win and a Knicks loss to the Jazz would put the Nets a game and a half behind the Knicks for the division lead.

The game will be Joe Johnson's second in Atlanta since the Hawks traded him to the Nets. In his first, back on January 16, he scored 15 points, shooting only 4-of-15, 0-of-4 from three.

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