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Nets Face Slumping Hawks

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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(AP) — Turmoil appears to be growing for the Atlanta Hawks, and first-year coach Larry Drew is embarrassed and disturbed.

Coming off their most lopsided defeat of the season, the Hawks try to avoid their seventh loss in nine games when they visit the struggling New Jersey Nets on Tuesday night.

Atlanta (8-6) opened the season with a six-game winning streak and appeared destined to remain among the elite in the Eastern Conference after going 53-29 in 2009-10.

Any positive momentum at the start of 2010-11 now appears to be over. The Hawks trailed by 26 following the first quarter and lost 99-76 to Boston on Monday, falling for the sixth time in eight games.

“This was very embarrassing,” said Drew, who spoke with his team behind closed doors for more than 20 minutes after losing to the Celtics. “Very, very embarrassing. Very embarrassing. If I had one word to sum it up: embarrassing.

“We’re not coming out ready to play. I’m not seeing any urgency. I’m not seeing any passion. We’re not playing like we want it. We’re not playing hard enough. It’s very, very disturbing.”

Atlanta has a chance to regain momentum before a Dec. 4 visit to Southeast Division rival Miami. Its next six games come against teams with losing records, beginning with the Nets (4-9).

Regardless of the opponent, Drew is concerned with his club’s preparation.

“I don’t know what we’re doing the night before the game,” Drew said. “But something is going on that is not allowing us to play with energy or passion. I’m going to find out what it is.”

Josh Smith, averaging 15.3 points and 8.9 rebounds, scoffed at the notion that the Hawks are spending too much time burning both ends of the candle.

“Everyone is getting their rest,” he said. “I don’t think that’s an issue. We’ve just got to get back to sharing the basketball and playing together.”

A meeting with New Jersey could help.

The Hawks have defeated the Nets four straight times by an average of 23.5 points, including a 108-84 victory March 16 in the most recent matchup at New Jersey, despite playing without an injured Joe Johnson. Johnson is averaging 24.3 points on 53.2 percent shooting over his last seven meetings with the Nets.

The four-time All-Star hasn’t come close to being those numbers over his last three games overall, averaging 9.3 points and shooting 27.8 percent from the floor. He had been averaging 19.9 points in his previous 11 games.

New Jersey has lost nine of 11 and four straight at home, although its last three home losses were decided by two points or fewer.

The Nets fell by a slim margin on the road Saturday, losing 107-103 at Denver.

New Jersey center and leading scorer Brook Lopez had 20 points against the Nuggets after scoring only seven in an 86-81 loss at Sacramento the previous night.

Lopez had a team-high 21 points in the March 16 loss to Atlanta.

Updated November 23, 2010
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pixy Nets Face Slumping Hawks