Hawks-Nets Preview

Brooklyn had a rough time already this week competing against
Atlanta without facing Josh Smith.

Things could get even tougher for the Nets with the Hawks star
in the lineup for Friday night’s rematch.

With Smith back from his one-game suspension, the Hawks look to
snap a five-game road skid while trying for a seventh consecutive
victory over the Nets in the finale of this home-and-home
matchup.

Playing without Smith, who was suspended and fined an
undisclosed amount for “conduct detrimental to the team” following
an incident in practice Tuesday, Atlanta (22-16) posted a 109-95
home win over Brooklyn (23-16) on Wednesday. Jeff Teague had a
career-high 28 points with 11 assists while Zaza Pachulia added 13,
11 rebounds and eight assists as the undersized Hawks owned a 29-12
advantage in fast-break points and shot a season-high 57.7
percent.

“We were good,” said coach Larry Drew, whose team shot a
season-low 29.3 percent Monday at Chicago in a 97-58 loss,
Atlanta’s sixth in seven games. “With Josh we’re better. That’s
just the bottom line.

“It will be good to get Josh back. (Thursday) when Josh shows
up, he will get a big hug from me.”

Though Smith averages a team-leading 16.5 points and is second
with 8.3 rebounds, Atlanta has increased the tempo while averaging
107.3 and shooting 53.9 percent to beat Brooklyn, Oklahoma City and
Indiana in the three games Smith has missed this season. Teague has
averaged 19.7 points in those contests – 6.6 above his average.

However, interim Brooklyn coach P.J. Carlesimo knows his team
could face an even greater challenge against the Hawks with Smith
on the floor.

“They were a very, very good team without Josh,” said
Carlesimo, who has guided the Nets to a 9-2 record since taking
over for the fired Avery Johnson. “You’ve got to think they’re
going to be a better team when they add a player of his caliber on
Friday.”

Smith has scored a combined 20 points in his last two games, but
has totaled 56 in his last two against the Nets.

Though Atlanta has averaged 82.2 points in its last five road
contests, it’s shot 50.0 percent while averaging 102.8 during a
six-game winning streak against the Nets. Al Horford had 17 with 13
rebounds while former Nets guard Devin Harris added 18 points, five
assists and four steals to help Atlanta snap Brooklyn’s season-high
seven-game winning streak Wednesday.

“Early you could see that the energy was there,” Drew said.
“They came out and took the attack to Brooklyn. You have to play
like that when you’ve been struggling.”

Brook Lopez scored 22 while Joe Johnson had 15 on 4-of-15
shooting in his first trip to Atlanta since the Hawks traded him to
Brooklyn in July. After shooting 39.4 percent from 3-point range
over the previous seven contests, the Nets went 4 of 26 from beyond
the arc in the second of back-to-back games.

“We’re flat-out exhausted,” Carlesimo said.

Though their overall winning streak ended, the Nets look for a
season-high seventh consecutive victory at the Barclays Center.
Johnson has averaged 20.0 points and gone 8 of 15 from 3-point
range in the last three games at home.