April 23, 2015
By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
– A spin through the old stomping grounds seemed to work wonders Wednesday for Jarrett Jack, who helped the Nets nearly trip the Hawks.
There was a familiar look about the former Georgia Tech standout while he scored a game-high 23 points in a playoff contest. At times, the 10-year NBA veteran overwhelmed Atlanta reserve point guard Dennis Schroeder. As when he starred for the Yellow Jackets from 2002-05, Jack often ran the show.
The Nets fell 96-91, but after losing all four regular season games against the Hawks by an average of more than 17 points, Brooklyn for the second straight playoff game gave Atlanta fits. Both times, Jack was in the middle of it all.
He has long made Atlanta his offseason home, and before Wednesday night’s game a visit to The Flats served him well.
“It’s always cool to come back where you have familiar surroundings,” he said after making 9-of-13 shots. “I drove to the game. I actually took a route that took me through Georgia Tech. It had a little bit of a nostalgic effect for me.
“It was cool, just understanding as a player that much of my journey began as a young adult trying to pursue my dream of being an NBA player. It was a special time.”
Jack wasted no time impacting Wednesday’s game.
The Nets trailed 27-18 when he subbed for starting point guard Deron Williams with 1:58 left in the first period. By quarter’s end, Brooklyn pulled to within 29-24 as he scored six straight points on a 21-foot jumper, a drive, and a 14-foot fadeaway.
There was more of the same in the second quarter.
His 3-pointer closed the score to 36-33 with 9:07 left as he converted a pass from another former Tech player, Thaddeus Young. Jack’s jumper after a Young steal minutes later pushed Brooklyn to a 40-36 lead, and when Johnson gave the Nets their biggest margin at 42-36, Jack’s pass helped make it happen.
“Jarrett is from Atlanta, played at Georgia Tech, probably plays with these guys all the time,” Brooklyn coach Lionel Hollins said after the game. “He played well. I thought our team played well.”
Jack did plenty of this as a Jacket.
The 6-foot-3 guard became one of only eight Jackets to score 1,000 points (1,265, at 12.5 per game) and bank 400 assists (543, at 5.4 per game). He earned third-team All-ACC honors as a sophomore in 2004 and second-team as a junior.
Jack also was tabbed as the Most Outstanding Player in the St. Louis Regional in 2004 while assisting Tech on its ride to the NCAA championship game, and honorable mention All-America in 2005 before opting to turn professional.
Ultimately, the Hawks took a 2-0 lead in their first-round playoff series against the Nets, but that’s practically expected. Atlanta (62-22) is the No. 1 seed in the East, and the Nets (38-46) qualified last for the postseason.
Racked by injuries and a churning roster, they’re seeded No. 8, and lost all four regular season games against the Hawks by an average of more than 17 points.
You wouldn’t know that from the first two playoff games.
Brooklyn pulled within 90-89 Wednesday on Jack’s 3-pointer with 1:55 left in the game. He soon rebounded Al Horford’s missed shot at the other end, and the Nets shot for the lead when Johnson drove but missed with 1:17 to go.
Jack’s done this before. The Nets are his seventh NBA team. He was traded from Cleveland last summer, and previously played for Golden State, New Orleans, Toronto, Indiana and Portland. He scored a playoff-high 26 points for the Warriors two years ago to the day, against Denver.
Never has he taken his pro career for granted. Last December, he chartered a flight to return to Atlanta for commencement ceremonies at Tech, where he had completed his degree in business management.
For a while yet, hoops will continue to matter most.
He averaged 12 points and 4.7 assists for Brooklyn in the regular season while starting 27 games and playing in 80 of 82. His career averages are 11.0 and 4.4, and Jack sports a sterling 85.4 percent free throw percentage.
Even though he’s averaging 18 points on 66.7 percent shooting (14-of-21) in the postseason, nobody is tougher on Jack than Jack.
He had four turnovers Wednesday in addition to five rebounds, three assists and a steal. What do you think he spoke most about after the Nets lost?
“You come in here with the mindset of trying to steal one of the games. We pretty much thought this was the game. We played them tough, but turnovers plagued us,” he said after Atlanta converted 16 Brooklyn turnovers into 19 points.
“I put a lot of that on my shoulders. I’m one of the guys that handles the ball a lot. Usually, myself and Deron, if we take care of the ball it’s a domino effect. If we don’t, it’s a domino effect. We turned the ball over and let them get out in transition. That makes it that much more difficult to defend [the Hawks].”
Jack will try it all again Saturday afternoon when the Hawks and Nets meet in Game 3 in Brooklyn. He wants to return to Atlanta in uniform rather than civvies.
To do that, the Nets will need to win at least one of two games in New York to force Game 5 in Atlanta next Wednesday.
“All is not lost. Our confidence is high. We’re going back home feeling pretty good about ourselves against this ball club,” he said. “I have a lot of friends and family here [in Atlanta], but I still can’t let that take away from the task at hand.”
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