After waiting as long as anyone to start season, the Atlanta Hawks combined athleticism, depth and a stingy defense to spoil the Nets’ final home opener in New Jersey and to show everyone they will contend in this lockout-shortened season.
Marvin Williams had 14 points and nine rebounds and the Hawks opened a double-digit lead early and cruised to a 106-70 victory that had Nets’ fans booing by halftime and chanting for the Brooklyn-bound team to make a trade for Orlando center Dwight Howard.
”Our guys came out to play and they played with a lot of energy from the start,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. ”We put the pressure on them from the start and played like that the whole game. I’m really pleased with the team effort. Having six guys in doubles is a great sign of playing like a team. We’ve been preaching since camp that we have to play together.”
Entering Tuesday, only Atlanta and Utah had not played a game, and the Hawks wanted to take advantage of that since the Nets (1-1) had played in Washington the night before.
”This was big,” said newcomer Tracy McGrady, who added 12 points. ”We knew that they played last night and we had to come out with fresh legs. We wanted to start out the season the right way, especially with the amount of games we have. We have nine games in 12 days, so every game counts in this cramped season. But this was a good start.”
The Hawks’ defense was spectacular, holding held New Jersey to 31 percent shooting from the field, including 23 percent in the first quarter while building a 17-point lead.
”We can cause some problems for teams defensively,” center Al Horford said. ”We have that ability to disrupt people. I think it helps a lot. Josh (Smith) is so quick and Marvin and I are so long. Guys can go flying around the floor defending shots.”
Jeff Teague added 13 points, Joe Johnson had 11 and the Hawks got big games off the bench from Zaza Pachulia (13 points and 11 rebounds) and Vladimir Radmanovic (17 points).
Rookie MarShon Brooks had 17 points to lead the cold-shooting Nets, who looked tired and disorganized.
The Hawks took command early as Williams hit two 3-pointers in a game-opening 11-2 spurt. Atlanta led 28-11 at the end of the first quarter with Radmanovic supplying a late spark with nine points.
Atlanta, which has made the playoffs the past four seasons, was not overly impressive on offense. It shot 44.2 percent from the field and only showed flashes of good basketball. The best came early in the second half when Williams and Smith combined on a fast break in which the ball did not touch the floor and they exchanged four passes before Smith hit a layup.
The Hawks increased their lead to 22 points at halftime on a 31-foot 3-pointer by Teague with less than a second to play. They led by as many as 39 points while resting most of the their starters for the final 18 minutes.
The Nets also gave up early, sitting Deron Williams and Kris Humphries most of the second half. Deron Williams finished with 10 points on 3 of 11 shooting with six turnovers, while Humphries had 11 points and six rebounds.
”This is very disappointing that we came out and put up a stinker like that in our first one,” Deron Williams said. ”It was one of those games where nothing seemed to go right. We have a lot of work to do and not a lot of time to do it.”
Nets coach Avery Johnson was upset his team showed no effort, adding if his players were in the stands, they would have booed, too.
”There is no excuse,” Johnson said. ”Take your hat off to Atlanta. They were rested and ready, locked and loaded, and they were ready to go from start to finish. We just couldn’t get untracked.”
The most shocking part of the night was the cheers that Humphries got. He has been booed early in the preseason because of his embarrassing failed marriage to Kim Kardashian. He was wildly cheered by the fans at the Prudential Center. When he played well early, there were even cheers of ”We love Humphries!”
NOTES: There were lots of people named Williams on the court. Former New York Yankee Bernie Williams played the national anthem. The Nets had Deron, Sheldon, Shawne and Jordan, while the Hawks had Marvin. … Hawks G Willie Green played in his 500th game. … The Hawks had lost their two in New Jersey. … The Nets never led in the game. … Official Bill Spooner left the game at halftime due to an illness. ..The Hawks shot 12 for 23 from 3-point range, while the Nets were 5 of 24.