While the Brooklyn Nets have long since clinched a postseason berth, the Atlanta Hawks are still fighting to get in.
A visit to Barclays Center couldn’t be coming at a worse time for coach Mike Budenholzer’s team.
The Hawks try to inch closer to locking up the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot Friday night when they meet the Nets, who haven’t lost at home in over two months.
After letting what was a very winnable game slip away in Tuesday’s 102-95 loss to Detroit, Atlanta (35-43) stormed back to beat Boston 105-97 on Wednesday. The Hawks trailed by nine with under six minutes to go before closing on a 25-8 run.
"We knew we had to win," said point guard Jeff Teague, whose team moved two games ahead of ninth-place New York with four to play. "It was a must win for us, so we came out and played with a lot of intensity in the fourth quarter."
Teague led six Hawks in double figures with 19 points as the team shot 52.6 percent. Paul Millsap and Elton Brand pulled down a combined 27 rebounds for Atlanta, which has won four of six.
"It was a good team win. You look at the box score and you see that we had contributions and effort all up and down," Budenholzer said. "We had a resilient group out there. To bounce back from a tough loss last night and bounce back from Boston making a run at us and going up nine, it just speaks to the character of our group and the resiliency of our group. We did it together and that’s what we want to do. That’s what we’re going to do going forward."
The Hawks now turn their attention to the Nets (43-35), who have won a franchise-record 15 consecutive home games and are 22-2 in their last 24 on their own court. Brooklyn is averaging 105.5 points during the win streak, and Atlanta has dropped 19 of its past 21 when allowing at least 100.
"They’ve been playing well at home, better than any team," Brand said. "It’s going to be a tough task but it’s the same thing (for us to be successful); keep the pace up, get our shots and get our shooters open."
The Nets have taken four of five from Atlanta, including both meetings in 2013-14. Former Hawks star Joe Johnson has averaged 26.0 points in those games, up from his season mark of 15.9.
One day after sweeping its season series against Miami with Tuesday’s 88-87 road win, Brooklyn suffered a 115-111 defeat at last-place Orlando. Johnson scored 31, but his potential tying 3-pointer with 10 seconds left was blocked.
"We pretty much had five guards out there, playing Joe at the center," coach Jason Kidd said. "We probably put him in a bad way, trying to make a 3 on a 7-footer. As coaches we can get better. This was a learning experience."
The Nets were outscored 22-6 in transition and allowed the Magic to shoot a season-best 55.8 percent.
"We let things get away, let them get too many easy buckets and transition 3s," point guard Deron Williams said. "Too many defensive letdowns. They scored 35 points in the second quarter. That essentially cost us the game."
The Nets, sitting three games behind Chicago and Toronto and three in front of Charlotte and Washington, are all but locked into fifth place in the East.