Already with one of the best offenses in the NBA, the Atlanta Hawks are starting to play better on the defensive end. That doesn't bode well for the New Jersey Nets.The high-powered Hawks look to get another solid defensive effort and win for the fourth straight time Sunday against the lowly Nets.
With Joe Johnson, Jamal Crawford and Josh Smith leading the way, Atlanta (16-6) is averaging 104.7 points. The Hawks are among the league leaders in points in the paint (49.4 per game) and fast break points (17.8), and have been getting contributions from the entire team.
After all 12 players scored in Wednesday's 118-83 win over Chicago, the bench scored 55 points - one less than the starting five - in Friday's 111-89 victory at Toronto.
"When our bench comes out and plays like that, we're a tough team to beat," said Johnson, who averages a team-high 21.0 points. "It makes us a lot more deadly, you can't really sit up and guard just one or two guys when you've got everybody rolling the way we were."
Although the offense has keyed the strong start, Atlanta's defensive play is a big reason for this three-game winning streak.
The Hawks are limiting opponents to 82.3 points on 40.8 percent shooting in the three victories after allowing an average of 114.5 points on 54.4 percent shooting in their previous two games.
That defensive turnaround is not a good sign for a New Jersey team that has trouble scoring.
The Nets (2-21), who took three of four from the Hawks last season, are averaging league lows of 88.5 points and 41.1 percent shooting, topping the 100-point mark just twice. They will likely have a difficult time trying to keep up with an Atlanta team that is averaging 123.7 points in its last three at home.
Atlanta, 9-2 at Philips Arena, also probably won't have much trouble getting its offense in gear against New Jersey, which is allowing an average of 105.3 points in its last eight games.
The Nets are coming off Friday's 107-91 loss to Indiana, dropping to 2-3 under coach Kiki Vandeweghe. New Jersey shot 36.3 percent from the field and made 3 of 13 shots from 3-point range.
"This was a tough one," Vandeweghe said. "We have to take a look at it and realize how they got ahead of us. (Friday) was a struggle for us shooting-wise."
Poor shooting has been an ongoing problem for the Nets, who have made less than 40.0 percent of their attempts in 10 games.
Brook Lopez had a rare bad shooting night Friday, missing 15 of 23 shots, but still finished with 25 points. Lopez, the league's highest-scoring center at 19.5 points per game, was shooting 60.0 percent from the floor in his previous four contests.
Devin Harris left Friday's game in the second half with a sprained left pinky finger, but returned to finish with 18 points. Harris was instrumental to New Jersey's success against the Hawks last season, averaging 27.3 points in the four meetings.
Play Basketball Hot Streak and win prizes!