ATLANTA — Al Horford and Jeff Teague scored 20 points apiece, helping the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks hold off the Brooklyn Nets 107-97 Wednesday night in an NBA playoff series that’s closer than anyone envisioned.
Shaking off a dislocated finger, Horford flew around the court in the fourth quarter when it looked like Brooklyn was on the verge of bouncing all the way back from an early 17-point deficit. In the final minute, Teague darted into the lane for a couple of baskets that sealed another hard-fought victory.
Atlanta leads 3-2 in the best-of-seven series, which heads back to Brooklyn for Game 6 Friday night. The Hawks can wrap it up, but the eighth-seeded Nets seem intent on taking it to the limit.
Alan Anderson led the Nets with 23 points off the bench. Jarrett Jack added 18 as the Brooklyn backups totally dominated Atlanta’s reserves.
DeMarre Carroll scored 24 points, pushing the Hawks out to a big lead. But the Nets, as they did in each of the first two games in Atlanta, came back to make it another close one.
Jack carried Brooklyn down the stretch, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers and then driving for a floater in the lane that closed the gap to 90-89 with less than 5 minutes to go.
Teague responded with a 3, then stole it from Jack at the other end. The Hawks fought for an offensive rebound after missing underneath, leading to an easy bucket for Carroll off a pass for Horford.
Joe Johnson hit two more 3s to pull the Nets to 97-95 — their last gasp, it turned out. Horford, who also had 15 rebounds, hit one of his patented jumpers from the top of the key, Jack walked trying to create something, and Teague scored on two straight drives — going right by Jack each time — to finally seal the victory.
Teague didn’t look the least bit bothered by a twisted ankle that briefly sent him to the locker room to get taped.
With prospective new owner Antony Ressler sitting courtside alongside his wife, actress Jami Gertz, the Hawks were on the verge of blowing out Brooklyn in the opening quarter. Attacking the basket at every opportunity, Atlanta created shots inside and outside, going 14 of 24 from the field and 4 of 8 from 3-point range. Carroll capped off the quarter with a leaning 3-pointer at the buzzer, giving the home team a commanding 33-16 lead.
Brooklyn responded big time in the second. The Nets started the quarter on an 11-0 run, which the Hawks finally snapped when a wild shot to beat the shot clock barely nicked the rim, allowing Paul Millsap to grab the rebound for an easy putback. Anderson scored 14 points in the period and the Nets closed to 53-44 at halftime.