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Nets fail to close out and fall to Atlanta, 110-105

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Atlanta Hawks Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets went into Wednesday playing some of their best basketball of the season after winning two of their last four games. The next objective: get the first win streak of the season.

It didn’t happen. The Atlanta Hawks (35-29) snapped its 3-game losing streak and defeated the Brooklyn Nets (11-52), 110-105, Wednesday night. The Nets have not beaten an Eastern Conference team on the road since January 2nd of last season and they’re 4-28 on the road this season.

Luckily they only have one game left on this brutal 8-game road-trip. The last one ever (so we think)…

The key play? there were two late.

With less than three minutes left, the Nets ran the break. They had just forced a big turnover and had the chance to either tie or trim the deficit down to one, but Sean Kilpatrick missed a contested layup. On the other end, Atlanta answered with a quick bucket to go up by five.

Then, the Nets cut it back down to two as Brook Lopez came up with his fifth block of the night and the Nets were on the run again with Kilpatrick leading the attack. A bit out of control and looking the other way, Kilpatrick had the ball swiped from behind after taking a few steps over the halfcourt line. Randy Foye had tried to warn him, yelling, “behind, behind” but to no avail.

"We are definitely getting better,” said Brook Lopez. “We have to take what we did well from this game & keep improving, learn from what we did wrong."

It was another squandered opportunity in a game filled with squandered opportunities for both teams.

Kilpatrick’s turnover was Brooklyn’s 22nd of the night, a mental lapse in which he didn’t have to force the ball up-court. They couldn’t get a 2-for-1, so why not take time and get a good shot?

Jeremy Lin almost, almost saved the day again. He hit a 3-pointer that made this a one-possession game after Atlanta nailed two free throws at the line. He took a tough three that clanked off the backboard and that was that, another tally in the loss column as the Hawks sealed the deal at the line. Lin finished with 16 points and eight assists in 24 minutes, more minutes and more improvements.

The Nets looked like a different team from a start, almost as if they had Atlanta’s game plan figured out. They controlled the game in the first half, forcing bad shots and silly turnovers, but Atlanta adjusted by attacking the Nets’ horrid pick and roll defense. They scored 35 points in the third and 29 points in the fourth. Atlanta shot just 4-of-20 from three and committed 15 turnovers, but Dennis Schroder (31 points) and Paul Millsap (24 points) brought Atlanta the victory.

Defense was the theme for Brooklyn in the first half, along with lack of turnovers. But as mentioned, they allowed 64 points in the second half and committed 14 turnovers after committing just eight in the first quarter.

Not to mention, Brook Lopez scored 13 of his 18 points in the first half, nine in the first quarter, then went extremely cold in the second half. Kilpatrick (27 points) kept the Nets alive for most of the second half, but it wasn’t enough to propel the Nets.

The story of the game:

Good starts are now the rule for the Nets, who trailed for a grand total of 18 seconds in the first quarter. They came out with more physicality and energy. Not to mention, the guards played in control and assisted on nine of their first 10 field goals, which gave them a 27-23-first quarter lead.

They carried over a little spurt and turned it into an 8-0 run bridging from the end of the first into the start of the second. Brooklyn found its largest lead of the half at nine, but Atlanta carved into that by the end of the half.

It was all about the defense. Brooklyn forced Atlanta to shoot 40 percent in the first half (2-of-10 3-pt) and came up with a season-high for blocks in a half this season with six.

Lopez had an all-around superb half with 13 points, six rebounds, two assists, three blocks and one steal. The Nets led 50-46 at half, surprisingly behind a superb defensive effort, one that wasn’t very sustainable.

Talk about adjustments:

Again, Hawks exploited the Nets’ biggest weakness: pick-and-roll defense. As a result, they quickly went up by seven. It looked like this would be Atlanta’s breakthrough, especially since the Nets couldn’t hold onto the basketball. They committed nine turnovers.

Still, after a huge offensive scoring burst from Kilpatrick, the Nets finished the quarter with a 16-10 advantage and trimmed the deficit down to one entering the fourth.

Both teams stayed close throughout with Atlanta controlling most of the quarter. And they won.

Fun Facts:

—The Nets assisted on 28 of their 37 made field goals.

—Lopez wound up with a nice line with 18 points, six rebounds, three assists, FIVE blocks and one steal. His issue, like the rest, were the five turnovers he committed.

—Trevor Booker did Trevor Booker things with 12 points and eight rebounds, while Quincy Acy contributed seven points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots.

—K.J. McDaniels got five minutes in the first half, while Andrew Nicholson sat ... again.

The Nets will complete the eight-game circus road-trip with a visit to Dallas on Friday.