The best thing for Kenny Atkinson about facing his former boss, Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer, Tuesday night at Barclays Center is that the Hawks’ formula for success obviously worked once to lift a moribund franchise, so, Atkinson has hope a similar approach will work one day for the Nets.
But for now, the Nets’ reality is grim. The Hawks scored their seventh straight victory by a 117-97 margin over the hapless Nets with tough defense and rebounding. It was the 12th loss for the Nets in their past 13 games.
Brook Lopez topped the Nets (8-29) with 20 points, and they got 16 from Bojan Bogdanovic, but they were held to 40.2 percent shooting and were outscored on second-chance points, 23-17. Point guard Dennis Schroder, who was a development project for Atkinson when he was a Hawks assistant, led six double-figures scorers for Atlanta (22-16) with 19 points and added 10 assists, and Dwight Howard had 14 points and 16 rebounds.
Atkinson said it was a special night for him to face his former team, but he added, “I wish we were a little more competitive. They set the bar high. We’d like to strive to be a similar program. We have a lot of work to do.”
Asked if Budenholzer offered reinforcement for what he’s doing in a rough first season with the Nets, Atkinson said, “Yeah, he always sends me texts, real positive, like, ‘I see the process. I see what you’re trying to do.’ ”
Although the Hawks have been trading off major parts of their team, they took charge in the second quarter, holding the Nets to 14 points on 27.3 shooting in the period and building a 20-point lead just before a late basket cut the Nets’ halftime deficit to 61-43.
Atlanta outrebounded the Nets in the first half 33-22 and outscored them on second-chance points 19-6. The Hawks’ trapping defense also forced the Nets into nine first-half turnovers that led to 17 Atlanta points.
“We knew it was coming,” Atkinson said of the trapping. “They force you to get it out of the ballhandler’s hands, and the shot clock starts going [down]. That’s why they’re a top-five defense.”
The Nets put together a 17-7 run with the aid of five points from Bogdanovic to cut their deficit to 10 midway through the third period. But their offense was stalled again by the Hawks’ pressure.
It’s tough to maintain optimism in the face of mounting losses, but Lopez said, “You’ve just got to keep going. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s trite for a reason. We’re working on something here.”
Notes & quotes: The Nets signed former Knick Quincy Acy to a 10-day contract, and he scored four points . . . Starting forward Trevor Booker (hip contusion) did not play . . . Point guard Jeremy Lin (left hamstring strain) remained out and is “progressing’ but not yet practicing . . . Cheick Diallo, who played in Centereach at Our Savior New American, played for the Long Island Nets D-League team and had 10 points and five rebounds in 17 minutes during a 120-112 loss to Fort Wayne Tuesday afternoon.