It wasn't going to last forever. One night after beating the Miami Heat at home in a double overtime affair, the Nets played the Division leading Toronto Raptors a tough game for three quarters before running out of gas and losing 96-80. Despite the loss, the Nets have had an excellent start to 2014, going 5-1 & are now back in playoff contention. This is game two of a three game road trip that will end at Madison Square Garden on MLK Day once they return stateside.
Joining the Nets in London are the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks have had a quality season and find themselves in the third seed in the Eastern Conference. They're coming off a 108-101 loss in Memphis on Sunday. This is a rematch from the game on January 6 that Brooklyn won 91-86. When the Hawks return to the United States, they'll play the Heat at home on MLK Day.
The season so far
What's the story between these teams? Let's check:
Offensive Rebounding percentage
Free throw rate
Effective Field Goal percentage
Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage
Deron Williams will not be with the team as he continues to recover from his latest ankle injury. With Williams out of action, Shaun Livingston will run the point for Brooklyn. He had a pretty poor game against Toronto, but he was coming off a career high in minutes the night before against Miami. Livingston has never been a good jump shooter, but he impacts the Nets offense in other ways. On a per 36 minute basis, he's averaging about 11 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds. Along with that, the team is generally better with him on the court vs. without (he's at a net negative, but that's the result of all the terribleness from early in the season).
Kevin Garnett has been playing well since he returned to the Center position, and picked up his first (!!!) double-double of the season against Miami on Friday. For all of his struggles on offense, the defense has been much better with him on the court. The Nets are over 5 points better per 100 possessions on defense & are much better on the glass (it helps that Garnett has been the best defensive rebounder in the league throughout the year). Along with that, KG has done a good job defending the rim. Teams are only shooting 44.1 percent against KG at the rim.
The bulk of the offense will flow through Joe Johnson & Paul Pierce. The extra days off should help them out in this contest. Johnson had a poor game from the field, but did have six rebounds and six assists (against zero turnovers). Pierce has been very active getting to the line in the past three games, reaching the charity stripe 22 times across that time period. He's still recovering from the hand injury he suffered, but has been much better since his return. These two should look to live in the low post against Teague, DeMarre Carroll & Korver.
On the injury front for Atlanta, Pero Antic will be with the team after missing Sunday evening's game due to back spasms. His status for the game is undecided as of this writing.
Leading the Hawks on offense will be Paul Millsap. He had been struggling recently, but is coming off a quality game in Memphis. On the whole, he's had a very good debut season for the Hawks, averaging 17.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a night while shooting close to 47 percent from the field. What makes this season different from the others (aside from no longer being in Utah) has been his foray into three point shooting. In his first seven seasons in the league, he'd only taken 113 three pointers combined. This year, he's already up to 99 and is banking on close to forty percent of them. I haven't really given it much thought, but I'm sure Millsap would be a very good choice to represent the East in the All Star Game.
Coming off the bench will be former Sixer Lou Williams. It's been a struggle for Williams since returning from the ACL tear he suffered last season. He's shot 27.5 percent from the field since 2014 began but he's always a threat to go off at any time. Also on Atlanta's second is another former Sixer (and All Star), Elton Brand. He's certainly slowed down from his better days in Chicago & Los Angeles, but Brand is still productive in the limited minutes he gets. Brand played well against Brooklyn back on 1/6, and with Antic limited, he should see a fair amount of minutes.
Player to Watch: Jeff Teague
The fourth year man is having a bit of a down season shooting the ball. He's having his worst shooting season since entering the starting lineup on a full time basis back in 2011. He's only shooting 41.7 percent from the field and 26.8 percent from three point range on about three attempts a game. Despite that, you probably shouldn't worry too much about him. Bo Churney of Hawks Hoop has more:
Even with all of the praise of Teague’s game, there are still some things that the young guard can improve upon. His tendency to sometimes lack aggressiveness is still there, though it has been seen at a lesser amount this season. Teague’s shooting numbers are also down, but Jeff’s career numbers suggest that those should be able to bounce back. Of course, these scuffs that we are still seeing from Teague on the court are something that have excited Budenholzer the most.
Something that has been going well for Teague is his ability to get to the rim. He drives to the rim 10 times a game (second in the league) and is averaging a career high five free throws a night. With the departure of Josh Smith in the offseason, Teague has taken on more responsibility on offense. He's had a career high usage rate this season, and while he's had a bit of a down season shooting the ball, he's done a good job maintaining possession as compared to last season. With the state of Eastern Conference point guards, Teague has a very good chance of making the All Star Team.
He struggled the last time he saw the Nets, & figures to face a tough challenge the second time around. He shot 5-15 and tied his career high of seven turnovers as Livingston and the Nets hounded him all night. He'll try to do better this time around, & his ability to get to the basket should come in handy. What will also come in handy is the presence of Kyle Korver behind the arc. He had a poor game against Memphis but is still having an excellent season. He's shooting close to 50 percent from the field overall and is second in three point percentage and true shooting percentage. If the Nets come to help on Teague's drives, Korver will make them regret that choice. He's also a quality defender and don't be surprised if he spends some time on Joe Johnson. What he has in quickness he lacks in size, and Johnson should see plenty of post up opportunities against Teague and anyone else his former team sends his way.
From the Vault
Since both of these teams are playing outside of North America, take a trip back to 2003 & watch Rashard Lewis score 50 against the Clippers in Japan on Opening Day.
More reading: Peachtree Hoops
- Brooklyn Nets Game Notes - Brooklyn Nets
- Atlanta Hawks Game Notes - Atlanta Hawks
- Brooklyn at Atlanta Preview - Nicolino DiBenedetto - Yahoo! Sports
- Hawks head to London to play Nets - Charles Odum - AP
- Kevin Garnett finding his old self now with Nets - Rod Boone - Newsday
- London trip disruptive to team's schedule - Andy Vasquez - The Record
- Nets play tourists overseas - Andy Vasquez - The Record
- International ball? Save it for the preseason - Brian Erni - SNY Nets
- Jason Kidd: Brooklyn Nets get 2 a.m. curfew in London - Mark Woods - ESPN New York
- Starting Five: Business in London Town - Mike Mazzeo - ESPN New York
- European Fans Get Caught Up in Nets - Alex Raskin - Wall Street Journal
- NBA Cares Clinic (Video) - NBA.com
- Carroll misses trip to London for birth of daughter (updated) - Chris Vivlamore - Atlanta Journal-Constitution