HEADLINE

Chasing Hawks for play-in spot, Nets go for two-game sweep

Field Level Media

March 01, 2024 at 7:18 pm.

On Thursday, the Brooklyn Nets played with the mentality of a team facing an elimination game and delivered one of their best performances of a season.

The Nets will attempt to display a similar type of performance when they play the second of two straight home games against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday afternoon.

Brooklyn is three games behind the 10th-place Hawks for the final play-in spot and can claim the head-to-head tiebreaker with another win. The Nets are hoping their performance is similar to Thursday’s 124-97 wire-to-wire rout.

Cameron Johnson provided the biggest lift of Brooklyn’s second win in five games under interim coach Kevin Ollie, who replaced Jacque Vaughn Feb. 20 after the Nets were dealt a 50-point loss in Boston on Feb. 14.

Johnson made his second straight start after three games off the bench and scored a season-high 29 points. It was Johnson’s fifth game with at least 20 points and first since scoring 24 at Detroit on Dec. 26.

“I just feel like we have to put that urgency from here on out on the rest of the season,” Johnson said. “It’s unfortunate, but we dug ourselves a hole, and it’s not what we think our group is capable of. So we have to find a way out of that and maybe do a little bit extra. Tonight is just the start. It doesn’t mean anything if we don’t follow it up.”

Brooklyn is attempting to attain consecutive wins for the first time since beating the Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz on Jan. 27-29. The Nets are 4-9 in their past 13 games, and their previous four losses were by a combined 120 points.

The Nets handed out 30 assists, shot 51.1 percent and hit 22 3-point attempts Thursday — its second-best total of the season.

“Our energy (and) our effort, those are things we can control,” Ollie said. “Our recipe that we need to keep cooking is no turnovers and sharing the cake. I keep saying that over and over again. But when we have nine turnovers and 30 assists, that’s our recipe for winning.”

The Nets were without Cam Thomas (sprained ankle) and Ben Simmons (sore knee) and both could be out again Saturday. Even if Simmons is available, he could come off the bench since Dennis Schroder scored 23 Thursday and has totaled 56 points on 59.5 percent shooting from the field in his past three games.

Atlanta is playing its third game since losing Trae Young to a left hand injury and subsequent surgery, which will keep him out at least four weeks. The Hawks won the first two games by beating Orlando and Utah but were held under 100 points for the fourth time this season.

The Hawks are 8-6 in their past 14 since losing four straight Jan. 20-26.

“We weren’t focused on the right things from a gameplay perspective at the beginning of the game,” Atlanta coach Quin Snyder said. “Consistently the whole night we weren’t as precise and forceful with how we played offense.”

Dejounte Murray scored 28 points but Atlanta scored just 16 in the first quarter and got outscored 68-47 in the second half.