“It’s almost as if we didn’t know the significance of this game,” Johnson said. “You can’t leave here without a win. It’s unacceptable.”
“We weren’t ready to play,” Wallace said. “We didn’t show up to play. We just weren’t focused. We missed layups. We turned the ball over. We didn’t get back in transition. They came in like they wanted the game, we came in like we were already on the road.”
The Nets (38-28) are set to embark on an eight-game, 17-day road trip, which begins on Monday night in Detroit. On Sunday night, they blew a golden opportunity to move into a tie with the New York Knicks (38-26) for first place in the Atlantic Division.
“It would’ve been a good step,” Deron Williams said. “A good confidence builder to get us going.”
The Nets, who came out sluggish after having four days off, took a 72-70 lead into the fourth quarter, but couldn’t hold it, as the Hawks outscored them 34-20 in the final 12 minutes to seal the victory. Atlanta opened the frame by making 14 of its first 17 shots.
“I think we can put a lot of it on ourselves and particularly me,” Brook Lopez said of the team’s lethargic defensive effort. “They did very well in the paint tonight and I think that was the game right there.”
The Hawks outscored the Nets in the paint, 56-38. They also outscored Brooklyn 22-6 on the fastbreak. The Nets shot just 41.9 percent from the field and had 16 turnovers.
Focus, Williams said, has been a big issue with the team.
“I don’t know why,” he said. “I’ve been trying to figure that out all year. We’ve been really inconsistent game to game.”
Still, the Nets can’t afford to feel sorry for themselves after they allowed the Hawks, a potential playoff foe down the road, to knot the season series at two-all. Over the next 17 days, they’re about to find out a lot about themselves.
“I think that we’ve been talking about this road trip for a while now,” Williams said. “This is a big stretch for us to see what we’re made of, to see how tough we are mentally, physically. Two weeks is a long time to be away from home, and so hopefully guy’s minds don’t wander and we stay focused on basketball and get wins, because this is a tough stretch.”