ATLANTA - They are aware of the unusual situation, even if they have done their best to downplay it, pretending it's not something at the forefront of their minds.
The Nets and Hawks -- who have two games in the span of five days against each other, the first of which came Saturday night at Philips Arena -- are in an interesting position. Because Atlanta has the right to swap first-round draft picks with the Nets in June as a condition of the Joe Johnson trade, there's more than a little incentive for the Hawks to thwart the Nets' playoff push.
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A lottery pick would be a boon for Atlanta, the Eastern Conference's top seed. And if the Nets do reach the postseason and meet the Hawks in a best-of-seven series, Atlanta made sure to put them on notice with a 131-99 victory that ended the Nets' winning streak at six games.
"They just beat us," said Lionel Hollins, whose team remains in seventh place in the conference -- a half-game ahead of the Celtics, one game ahead of the Heat and two games ahead of the Pacers and Hornets -- with six games remaining. "It was a good whippin' and there's nothing else I can say about it. There's no questions that I can answer except to say that they came out and they played great."
Doomed by early foul woes, shorthanded with Alan Anderson unavailable because of a sprained left ankle and looking like a team playing its fourth game in five nights, the Nets (35-41) never got it in gear, falling behind by 13 points in the first quarter and allowing the Hawks to shoot 65 percent from the floor.
Atlanta (57-19) assisted on 40 of its 49 field goals, taking the Nets apart with surgical precision, and blew them away with a 35-point second quarter, riding a 27-11 surge to grab a 60-35 edge with 4:25 remaining before halftime.
Seven players cracked double figures in scoring for the Hawks, who were led by 20 points apiece from Al Horford and DeMarre Carroll. Bojan Bogdanovic had 19 for the Nets.
"We haven't beaten them this season yet, so right now, we don't match up well with them," Deron Williams said. "When they play against us, they play really well against us. But we've got to figure some things out."
The Nets were powerless to stop the Hawks. Of Atlanta's 25 first-half field goals, 16 came on the interior.
It's almost as if the Hawks had visions of next month's draft lottery results dancing in their heads.
"I think it was just one of those games and it's going to be important to see how we respond Monday," Brook Lopez said. "It's going to be big. I think we'll respond better than we have throughout the season in situations like this."
Perhaps that's because he'll be squaring off against his twin brother Robin when the Trail Blazers come calling in a makeup of a game postponed Jan. 26 because of a snowstorm.
"Ah," Lopez said, laughing. "Same old same old. I hate that guy and we'll probably hopefully destroy him."