ATLANTA - Inside a hushed visitors' locker room, as the players filed out quietly to the bus and off into the Georgia night to head back home on their chartered flight, Jarrett Jack offered a simplistic view of the Nets' emotional state.
"I don't think anybody is happy to be in this position to start off the season," Jack said. "We've got to come out with the mentality of a desperate team trying to get a win on Friday."
That's where these Nets are at the moment after dropping a 101-87 decision to the Hawks at Philips Arena Wednesday night, stretching their season-opening losing streak to a five. They are forced to hold out hope they can topple the hapless Lakers Friday in Brooklyn, otherwise it may really be a while before they dent the win column with road dates against the Bucks, Rockets, Kings and Warriors on tap.
The problem plaguing the Nets (0-5) crept up again in the fourth quarter, erasing any possibility had of upending Atlanta in the regular season for the first time since they beat the Hawks in London in 2014. An inability to put together an efficient fourth quarter to close out the opposition led to their demise.
Even though Atlanta didn't have an available Kyle Korver, who was resting on the second end of a back-to-back after his offseason ankle surgery, the Hawks still boasted plenty of offensive gusto to stave off the Nets' mini fourth-quarter challenges. Atlanta (4-1) outscored the Nets 29-17 in the final 12 minutes, making 10 of 17 field-goal tries and going 7 of 9 in the paint.
"They made some plays, hit some big shots and we just didn't convert," said Lopez, who paced the Nets with 27 points and 11 rebounds. "They made a run and unfortunately we didn't really respond to that, which was unfortunate because we played so well for the entirety of the game up to that point."
Lopez single-handedly spurred the Nets in the third quarter and was an unstoppable force, pumping in 16 points and throwing down three nasty righthanded dunks that left the Nets trailing by just two heading into the fourth quarter. But he never got going in the final quarter, making the lone shot he took in 5:08 of action, and the Hawks rendered him a non-factor in crunch time.
"That happens," Nets coach Lionel Hollins said. "Sometimes he gets shots, sometimes he doesn't. We go to him, we run a play for him in the post and they make him throw it out. There's nothing more we can do about that."
Given the Nets' atrocious defensive display, Lopez would have needed to fill up the basket at breakneck pace for them to hang with the Hawks in the deciding fourth quarter. Yielding a 58-percent shooting showing in the final quarter was the capper, finishing off a night in which 17 of the Hawks' 37 field goals came in the paint.
"First of all, we've got to guard the ball," Hollins sad. "No drive blow bys. We had a lot of blow bys. If I had went back and checked the stats, we had a lot of times when they just came down and blew by us. It's hard to help in that situation and when they do, they throw it to a guy who's open and he throws it to another guy that's open. We are just scrambling all over the place."