Atlanta finished off a stubborn Brooklyn with a 111-87 win on Friday that gave the Hawks a 4-2 victory in a first seed vs eighth seed NBA Eastern Conference series that was tougher than expected.
Paul Millsap had 25 points, nine rebounds and six assists for the Hawks, who raced ahead with a powerhouse third quarter.
“We believe,” forward DeMarre Carroll said, “and we believe that when we are playing the right way, as you seen tonight, we can beat anybody.”
Kyle Korver added 20 points and hit three of his six three-pointers during a series-deciding run as the Hawks turned a six-point halftime lead into the only blowout of the series. The East’s No. 1 seed have a quick turnaround before facing Washington today in their second-round opener.
“We didn’t play that well the first three games. I didn’t think we had our edge,” Korver said. “Coming here and losing two kind of woke of us.”
Atlanta won the final two games and left no doubt about this one after beginning the second half with a 23-3 blitz that made it 74-48, opening as big a gap on the scoreboard as there was between the teams in the standings. The Hawks were 60-22 in the regular season and the Nets were only 38-44 as the last team to qualify for the post-season, but Atlanta had outscored Brooklyn by just nine points through the first five games.
The Nets looked as if they would keep this one close after recovering from the Hawks’ strong start, but Atlanta would not let that happen.
Brook Lopez scored 19 points for the Nets, who had saved first-round elimination with Game 6 victories in each of the last two years. However, a lethargic start to the third quarter ended any hopes of taking the series back to Atlanta today.
“We thought we put up a great effort against this team that’s the best in the East,” Nets guard Deron Williams said.
Williams had two turnovers that started Atlanta fast breaks in the opening minutes of the third, as the Hawks started with an 8-0 spurt that made it 59-45. Williams then made a three-pointer, but the Hawks ripped off the next 15 points, opening a 26-point bulge midway through the period.
“You could just see they had the wave of momentum that they weren’t going to let up,” Nets coach Lionel Hollins said.
The Hawks won the East so handily after building a big cushion with their 17-0 January that they were able to give their starters plenty of rest approaching the post-season, although that contributed to them not clicking when the playoffs started.
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