The sense of urgency was conspicuously absent, replaced by a lethargic vibe that had boos cascading around Barclays Center.
All the grit and determination the Nets had shown in climbing back into their Eastern Conference first-round series with the Hawks vanished and they were getting thoroughly outplayed, shrinking unfathomably in the bright national spotlight. This wasn't the way most of the 17,732 in the sellout crowd expected things to go with the Nets one loss away from summer vacation and an offseason of uncertainty that could break apart the team's core, as currently constructed.
But in their most important game of the season, the Nets never showed up Friday night and trailed for the game's final 47:42. Doomed by awful, slow starts at the outset of each half, the eighth-seeded Nets got throttled, 111-87, by the top-seeded Hawks to end their season.
Brook Lopez, in what could be his final game in a Nets uniform since he has a $16.7-million player option for next season, paced the Nets with 19 points and seven rebounds.
Paul Millsap led the Hawks with 25 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
Nets coach Lionel Hollins pulled the plug with 4:40 remaining and the Nets trailing 101-82, inserting the seldom-used players. Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Jarrett Jack all trudged to their seats, probably wondering if this roster will resemble anything similar to this next season.
Any possibility of extending this series and forcing a Game 7 in Atlanta vanished rapidly after halftime, when the Hawks hung 41 points on the Nets in the third quarter to turn this one into a laugher. The Nets were sloppy with the ball, couldn't hit a shot and played atrocious defense. That numbing combination, paired with their lack of aggressiveness and no apparent sense of urgency, allowed the Hawks to wrap their claws around the Nets and put a vice grip on the momentum.
Fueled in part by the Nets' futility, Atlanta picked Brooklyn apart with a 23-3 run to blow the hinges off things, creating plenty of opportunities courtesy of the Nets' defensive breakdowns. The Hawks assisted on 15 of their 24 field goals in the quarter and held a commanding 92-66 advantage heading into the fourth, placing them well on their way to finishing off the Nets' disappointing season.
Nets coach Lionel Hollins tried to do everything he could to get the likes of Lopez and Johnson a rest. The two are among the top 14 this postseason in minutes per game and Hollins knew he had to find ways to at least get his 7-footer a blow every now and then. But it backfired a bit in the first quarter when he inserted Mason Plumlee. Atlanta ripped off three consecutive buckets to grab a 17-10 edge and Hollins had to call a quick timeout just to stop the bleeding and reinsert Lopez.
But that still didn't stop the Hawks from running out and hiding. Atlanta shot 72.2 percent in the first quarter to grab a 36-23 edge heading into the second quarter.
The Nets closed the gap in the second quarter with a 14-2 run and they trailed 51-45 at halftime.