Atlanta, GA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Atlanta Hawks continued this year's playoff trend simply by doing what they do best.
Paul Millsap scored 19 points and led a strong performance from the perimeter that carried the Eastern Conference regular-season champions to a 96-91 win over the Brooklyn Nets in Game 2 of their opening-round series on Wednesday.
The Hawks vaulted to the top of the East behind a 38 percent success rate from 3-point range, second only to Western Conference-leading Golden State for the best in the NBA. They made good on 12-of-31 attempts from beyond the arc on Wednesday, while staving off a determined late rally from the Nets to become the sixth team during this postseason to claim a 2-0 lead in the quarterfinals.
Millsap went 4-for-4 from long distance and 7-of-11 overall from the floor, Kyle Korver buried a trio of treys en route to 17 points and Jeff Teague hit a pair of triples while compiling 16 points and six assists.
"The 3-point shot was working," Millsap said. "I was wide-open on a lot of shots. The drive-and-kick helped us out a lot. I was able to get free a few times. It really started with the guards penetrating, getting me easy buckets."
Al Horford added an inside presence as well for Atlanta, putting up 14 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in addition to dishing out seven assists despite playing through a dislocated right finger.
"Honestly, once the game started, right from the beginning it went out the window," said Horford of the injury. "I just went out there and played."
Just as they did in Game 1, the Nets controlled the paint and put up a spirited comeback effort in the fourth quarter that ultimately fell short. Brooklyn cut an 11-point deficit down to 92-91 with under a minute to go, but the Hawks closed out the game at the foul line after Deron Williams' short baseline jumper rimmed out in the final seconds.
Jarrett Jack tallied 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting for the eighth-seeded Nets, with Brook Lopez finishing with 20 points and Joe Johnson scoring 19 in defeat.
Brooklyn will attempt to bounce back when the series shifts to Barclays Center for Saturday's Game 3.
The Hawks never trailed after putting forth an 8-0 run that turned a one-point Brooklyn lead into a 68-61 advantage with under three minutes left in the third quarter. They appeared to be comfortably in front midway through the fourth, but the Nets got hot from the outside during one last strong push that very nearly put them on top.
Johnson and Jack buried back-to-back 3-pointers to pull Brooklyn within 90-89 with 1:55 remaining. The teams then traded baskets to keep the margin at one, but Millsap gave the Nets an opening by making just 1-of-2 from the foul line with 28.6 seconds to play.
Williams got the ball in the left corner on the ensuing possession, sidestepped a defender and delivered a pull-up that landed in-and-out of the basket. Korver corralled the rebound and was quickly fouled with 8.1 seconds left, with the 90 percent foul shooter calmly knocking down both shots for a 95-91 lead that all but sealed the victory.
"We had our chances here," Nets head coach Lionel Hollins said afterward. "Now it's time to go home and hold serve at our place."
The Hawks had a torrid start negated by a prolonged cold stretch during the second quarter that enabled Brooklyn to build a 42-36 lead, but regained their shooting stroke to finish the first half on a tear.
Millsap concluded a 7-1 spurt with a triple that knotted the score at 43-43, and five straight points from Korver later on had Atlanta up 48-45 entering the final minute of the period. A jumper by Jack was then countered by two Teague free throws that sent the Hawks into the break with a 50-47 edge.
Consecutive baskets by Lopez and Johnson put the Nets ahead by a 61-60 count with five minutes remaining in the third quarter, but a trey by reserve center Pero Antic ignited Atlanta's aforementioned 8-0 flurry and the Hawks went into the fourth owning a 75-67 cushion that grew as high as 11 points later on.
Atlanta's offense was on fire early, as the Hawks made their first five shots en route to claiming a 17-7 lead just over four minutes in. They owned a 27-15 advantage late in the first quarter before a hot stretch from Jack allowed Brooklyn to reverse momentum.
The backup guard poured in 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting in leading an extended 27-9 stretch that catapulted the Nets in front. Brooklyn held the Hawks without a point over the final four minutes of the surge, which it capped with a 12-0 run to grab a 42-36 lead just past the midway mark of the second quarter.
Prior to the game, the Hawks announced the sale of the franchise to a group headed by billionaire Tony Ressler pending approval by the NBA's Board of Governors. The new ownership group also includes seven-time NBA All-Star Grant Hill ... Nets forward Mirza Teletovic returned to action after being sidelined by blood clots in his lungs since Jan. 22, playing four minutes in the first half ... The Nets have now lost seven straight meetings with the Hawks and have dropped 12 of the last 13 games held in Atlanta ... Williams recorded 10 rebounds and eight assists but managed just two points on 1-of-7 shooting ... Brooklyn outscored the Hawks 38-28 in the paint and outrebounded the Hawks by a 49-41 margin.