Although they're coming off their first loss, the Atlanta Hawks might be as confident as they've been all season.After nearly knocking off the defending NBA champions, the Hawks look to bounce back when they open a home-and-home series with the struggling New Jersey Nets on Friday at the Izod Center.
Atlanta (6-1) lost 103-102 at Boston on Wednesday, as Paul Pierce's fallaway jumper with 0.5 seconds remaining allowed the Celtics to survive the upset bid.
The Hawks led by 16 in the first half before Boston rallied to tie it at the break, but Atlanta didn't fold, with neither team leading by more than four points the rest of the way.
"A great player hit a great shot," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "I hate for the game to end - not like that. That game was played beautifully on both ends of the floor, by both teams, and they made a great play at the end."
Joe Johnson had 28 points and seven assists for Atlanta and Mike Bibby added 16 points.
Although the Hawks gave up more than 100 points for the second consecutive game, they held the Celtics to 42.1 percent shooting. Atlanta is limiting opponents to 91.4 points and 41.3 percent from the field per game - both in the top five in the league.
After making the playoffs last season for the first time in nine years, the Hawks have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Boston, with four of the wins coming on the road.
"Our team swagger is really high right now," Hawks forward Al Horford said. "We just want to play the game the right way, let people know we're serious."
The Hawks should have a good shot at bouncing back quickly as they face a young New Jersey team that's struggling without starting point guard Devin Harris, who's status for Friday is uncertain.
The Nets (2-5) dropped their third straight without Harris on Wednesday, 98-87 to the Pacers. Vince Carter scored 28 points while Jarvis Hayes had 15 points and seven rebounds for New Jersey.
Harris, who averaged 15.4 points in 25 games with the Nets last season after being acquired from Dallas, was averaging 18.8 points in four games this season before going down with a sprained ankle. He is day-to-day.
"I don't want to tell you he's going to play Friday and then he doesn't play Friday," coach Lawrence Frank told the Nets' official Web site Wednesday. "I think he's making good progress. They tried doing some lateral stuff with him today and still weren't totally comfortable with it, so until he can overcome that, we'll wait."
Without Harris, the Nets have committed an average of 17.0 turnovers as opposed to 13.0 over the four games he did play in. New Jersey had 18 turnovers that Indiana turned into 25 points Wednesday.
"It's been difficult, but hopefully we can speed up the process and get everyone on one page quicker," Hayes said of a Nets team that has its roster remade with youth during the offseason.
The Nets took three of four from the Hawks last season, including both games at the Izod Center. All three wins came by fewer than 10 points.
The teams meet again Saturday at Philips Arena.