Jarrett Jack was in a jovial mood, in the middle of breaking down aspects of a key second-half surge, when he was reminded that the Nets previously had lost six straight to the Hawks.
"You had to bring that up," Jack said.
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Yes, but only for proper perspective and reference purposes, just to cite how long it took them to solve Atlanta's jigsaw puzzle.
The eighth-seeded Nets finally got that much-needed breakthrough Saturday, using an impressive 18-0 fourth-quarter run -- with Deron Williams glued to the bench -- to secure a 91-83 victory over the top-seeded Hawks in front of 17,732 fans at Barclays Center.
Atlanta leads the Eastern Conference first-round series 2-1, with Game 4 in Brooklyn Monday night. But collecting their first win over a team that has had their number all season could provide the psychological boost the Nets need, particularly after Atlanta stormed back from a 15-point first-half deficit to grab a four-point advantage late in the third quarter.
"I think we knew we could beat this team," said Joe Johnson, who finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. "In Games 1 and 2, we got down early -- 13, 14 points -- and now you are uphill climbing the whole game. It takes a lot out of you coming down the stretch. We were kind of able to regain that tonight and at the end, man, just kind of put them away."
All thanks to an 18-0 run fueled by good ball movement and scrappy defense that wouldn't allow the Hawks to get anything easy.
The Nets limited Kyle Korver to a 1-for-8 showing from the floor, including 0-for-5 from three-point range.
For a brief moment, however, it did seem as if the Hawks were about to take this one over. Atlanta used an 11-0 spurt to grab its largest lead of the game at 62-58 with 2:58 remaining in the third quarter.
Rather than succumbing, the Nets -- who were paced by Brook Lopez's 22 points and 13 rebounds -- accepted the challenge in a way they haven't done often this season.
The Hawks, who were led by DeMarre Carroll's 22 points, went 7:13 between buckets. The Nets exerted their will in the meantime, racing to a 76-62 with 9:06 remaining that had them well on their way to making this a series.
"We have a lot of veteran guys on this team that know how to play basketball," said Thaddeus Young, who had 18 points, 11 rebounds and three assists. "The biggest thing was just keeping our composure, not letting that get to us."
Any mental edge the Hawks had over the Nets has been shattered -- at least for now.
"We showed spurts here and there in the season like a roller coaster," Alan Anderson said. "But we've showed that we can play with anybody. We just have to be consistent in doing it. Hopefully we are peaking now. I know it's the end of the season, but if we play this way, we are pretty tough to beat ourselves. So we know they are one of the best teams in the league, but we like our chances."