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Hollins: Nets don't 'have any advantage over the Hawks'

If you’re a Brooklyn Nets fan searching for reasons to be optimistic heading into the first-round series with the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks, you won’t find them here.

“I don’t think we have any advantage over the Hawks,” Nets coach Lionel Hollins said in a conference call on Thursday. “That’s why they’re 60-22 and that’s why we’re where we are (38-44). They’re a very good team and we have to go out and develop a game plan to control the tempo, rebound and score against them consistently. They’ve played well against a lot of teams, including us, so it’s not like I think we have the advantage going in. We have to develop a game plan that can help us go out and compete.”

Hollins is a realist. The Nets went 0-4 against the Hawks during the regular season. And they’re going to have to play near-perfect basketball in order to compete with Atlanta.

The Hawks’ starting five is as good as it gets. They don’t have one “superstar,” so to speak, but they do have four All-Stars in Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver. And “D-and-3” ace DeMarre Carroll complements them perfectly.

Atlanta ranked tied for fifth in offensive efficiency in 2014-15. Against Brooklyn, the Hawks shot 49.8 percent from the field and averaged 13.3 made 3-pointers and 114.0 points per game. Their average margin of victory was 17.3.

“They have a very versatile team,” Hollins said. “They have a lot of quickness at every single position and they play relatively small. And that puts you at a disadvantage when the other team is quicker than you because they’re smaller than you. We have to combat that by doing whatever we can and develop that plan as we go forward.

“But their style of play is one of moving the ball and they count on a lot of different people. Obviously, we think that starts with the ball handler and the pick-and-roll, but it really doesn’t. It starts with them pushing the ball up the court and moving the ball from side to side and trying to put you in a disadvantage in certain sets so you have to over-help. And then they throw it and then they draw and kick. It’s the same system that San Antonio has run so well in the last few years.”

Hollins said earlier in an interview with WFAN that the Hawks are beatable when they are missing shots. After trading for Thaddeus Young on Feb. 19, the Nets ranked 23rd in defensive efficiency. It will be a tall task trying to contain Atlanta’s high-octane offense.

“You just wanna contest shots, you wanna keep the penetration to a minimum whether it be out of the pick-and-roll or whether it’s just straight,” Hollins said. “Guys who have the edge quickness-wise, we gotta keep Teague from penetrating, Carroll from penetrating, Millsap from penetrating, we gotta keep Horford from penetrating.

“All of those guys are going to have a little bit of an edge going against us, so we have to do a good job in our one-on-one defense. We have to do a solid job in our help defense and then we have to recover to our own with good closeouts so we don’t get faked or driven by.”

Hollins doesn’t put any stock in playoff experience.

“I don’t think playoff experience has anything to do with talent and skill and how you play,” he said. “Playoffs are about going out there and playing well. Now if you have a team that’s equally as good as you and you’ve been there a few times, then it makes a difference, but even then that team still has to beat you. And I just think that it’s overstated.”

You would think the Nets are going to need big performances from their three max-contract players: Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. Williams shot just 23.4 percent from the field in the final four games of the regular season.

“I don’t even think about it. Deron has played extremely well even when he wasn’t shooting well he’s had 14 assists, 10 assists, nine assists, eight assists,” Hollins said. “He’s controlled the game and he’s gotten the ball to his teammates, he’s playing his role. Obviously, he would want to shoot better and I would like him to shoot better, but I don’t go into games thinking a guy plays poorly because he doesn’t shoot well.”

And don’t ask Hollins about max players.

“When you say the person that gets paid the most money, that’s kinda like the game is about money,” Hollins said. “The game is about teams. And if we go out there as a team and play well and make plays as a group, we have a chance.”

Notes: Hollins did not know if Alan Anderson (ankle) would be available for Game 1 on Sunday night. ... The Nets coach sent a “thank you” text to his former center, Marc Gasol, after the Memphis Grizzles beat the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night, enabling Brooklyn to sneak into the playoffs.