Hawks take on Nets in Eastern Conference clash
At this point in the season, if it appears you're safely in the playoffs, it's all about jockeying for homecourt advantage and the highest possible seed.
That's what will happen when the Brooklyn Nets host the Atlanta Hawks Sunday night at the Barclays Center.
The Nets have won four of their last five and are fourth in the Eastern Conference, just one game behind the New York Knicks for first in the Atlantic Division.
A Nets win on Sunday, coupled with a Knicks loss against the Los Angeles Clippers, and Brooklyn would share the third seed and division lead with their New York neighbors.
Brooklyn is only 1 1/2 games behind the Indiana Pacers for the second seed in the Eastern Conference as well.
"We have to start clicking at the right time. And now's the time, heading toward the playoffs," said Nets guard Joe Johnson. "You want to be clicking on all cylinders."
Yes, the Nets are playing well. Problem is, Brooklyn embarks on an eight-game road trip, starting Monday in Detroit, that sees the Nets go west for five games.
The Nets haven't played since a 108-98 victory at home over the New Orleans Hornets on Tuesday. They lost in Philadelphia to the 76ers the night before, but the Nets still have been on a good run.
During this stretch of five wins in six games, only the Sixers scored over 100 points against the Nets. One of those victories came in Atlanta on Mar. 9.
The Nets beat on the Hawks pretty good that night. The 93-80 final score was only that close because of a late fourth-quarter run by Atlanta, but Brooklyn was in command thanks to a 28-14 drubbing of the Hawks in the second quarter.
The Hawks have won two straight since a three-game losing streak. Both wins came at home and against Western Conference opponents, and they return to Atlanta for three in a row following Sunday's trip to Brooklyn.
Against the Phoenix Suns on Friday, the Hawks built a 14-point lead through three quarters and cruised to a 107-94 victory.
All five starters scored in double figures for Atlanta, led by double-doubles from both Josh Smith and Al Horford. Smith had 17 points while Horford had 16, and both pulled down 11 rebounds.
"Everybody pitched in to this victory," said Smith. "We were very unselfish and played like it [Friday]. When we're able to do that, we're a pretty good team."
Kyle Korver chipped in 16 points, Devin Harris added 15 and DeShawn Stevenson netted 12 for the Hawks. Korver has made a 3-pointer in 58 consecutive games, the longest streak in the NBA since Peja Stojakovic's 62-game run in 2008.
The Nets have won their last two against the Hawks and Atlanta has dropped three of its last five on the road in this series.