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Brooklyn Nets vs. Atlanta Hawks game preview: Nets look for a much needed win

The Atlanta Hawks scored 152 points Tuesday night ... and lost. Now, they face the Brooklyn Nets on a back-to-back.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It was kinda close, until it wasn’t. The Brooklyn Nets hung around for a half, but Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey and the Philadelphia 76ers got to business and wound up obliterating the Nets. Not a fun bit of business at all.

The opponent tonight is looking to put forth a solid game in front of the hometown faithful. The Atlanta Hawks played last night and lost the wildest game of the NBA season thus far, a 157-152 barn burner against the Indiana Pacers. If anyone was in the mood for an homage to the Doug Moe era Denver Nuggets, then that game was for you!

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN on radio. Tip after 7:30 p.m. ET.

Injuries

No Ben Simmons, Dennis Smith Jr, or Cam Thomas. Smith will undergo an MRI on his back Wednesday. Also expect a more detailed update on Simmons and Thomas.

Night two of a back-to-back so we’ll see who’s out there for the ATL.

The game

Relatively speaking, home back-to-backs are better than the alternative. After Friday night’s loss to the Sixers, the Hawks got a few days off and have been home relaxing all week. If the NBA is going to keep the B2Bs going, that’s the best way to do it.

One field goal attempt. That’s what happened for Mikal Bridges on Sunday after he took it to the Sixers to the tune of 16 points in the first half. When you’re the team’s best player, you have to insist on getting the ball and making something happen. For Bridges, that means going for his own shot a bit more and forcing the issue when the time calls for it.

Atlanta isn’t on track to compete for a title just yet, but they’re laying down the foundation. Over at Peachtree Hoops, Wes Morton wrote about the team’s approach under new head coach Quin Snyder:

Even then, the full implementation of ideals and schemes surely couldn’t take hold after just twelve games. With a focus on development and internal improvement, the organization is largely taking a conservative approach with regard to their young players. Setting the culture has been prioritized thus far. So while more minutes are surely on the way for young players like AJ Griffin, the decision has been made to not expose Griffin and other young players to a ‘sink or swim’-type of situation on the basketball court.

For the Hawks, their future begins with the dynamic duo of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray. Young turned in a dynamic performance last night of 38 points, eight assists, and three steals. The great thing about Young is he can heat up at a moment’s notice and has range from all over the court. He’s also masterful at creating enough leverage to get to the free throw line and keep your team in foul trouble. Without Smith Jr., the Nets are down a guard that could chase Young around. It’ll be up to Spencer Dinwiddie and the rest of the available Nets to be disciplined and force Young into difficult shots. If they don’t, Trae is bound to light them up for 30+ points.

It’s a homecoming! Nic Claxton will get to see his folks as the former University of Georgia star gets to perform in his old neck of the woods. Clax has been solid since returning and the more we get to see him display his full arsenal, the more dynamic his play is. He’ll have to tangle with the interior duo of Onyeka Okongwu and Clint Capela tonight. Okongwu has gotten a large bulk of the center minutes and has continued to blossom in his role. Soon enough, the Hawks will have to decide if he’ll be the starting center going forward. Luckily, they won’t have to worry about that for a good while.

Player to watch: Jalen Johnson

The Hawks have some exciting young talent ready to step up, and Johnson is a player that

Whether as a ball-handler or lane-filler, Johnson is a threat to finish any transition opportunity with a bang. His insertion into the starting lineup gives both Young and Dejounte Murray a partner in crime when pushing the pace, and Atlanta’s two lead guards have grown more and more daring when feeding Johnson on the run. Why wouldn’t they?

The ex-Blue Devil is a tremendously malleable athlete. He doesn’t mind jumping off one foot or two, trying to go through contact or around it, with a runway or off a standstill, or finishing with the off-hand. Johnson simply takes the most efficient route to the rim, often above it. He is a career 76% finisher inside the restricted area, per Basketball Reference, and while that career has only spanned ~1500 minutes, a number that will double by the end of this season, did you see what I just said? Seventy-six percent!

Johnson is getting better by the day and how he handles the second leg of this back-to-back will go a long way in determining who wins before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, Cam Johnson did something pretty awesome to mark the holiday. Last weekend, he gave out food to residents at the Marcy Houses in Brooklyn. Jacque Vaughn spoke about the team embracing the city and said:

“Man, this is an unbelievable community. Dive into it, embrace it, be a part of it. That’s the best part of being here in Brooklyn. The reason I’ve always wanted to live here, to feel the people, to feel the borough. Appreciative. And for Cam to have his time and spend it in a thankful way, pretty cool.”

That’s what’s up.

From the Vault

Andre 3000 is back with a new album, but he’s not rapping on it. That’s cool for him and the album is solid in my early listens thus far. In the meantime, let’s take it back to 1998 and Aquemini!

More reading: Peachtree Hoops, SB Nation NBA, Nets Republic, Soaring Down South