(SportsNetwork.com) - The Atlanta Hawks will try for a commanding lead Saturday afternoon when they visit the Barclays Center for Game 3 against the Brooklyn Nets.
Despite a 2-0 lead, and this being a No. 1 seed versus an eight seed, the Hawks have looked far from dominant. Their average margin of victory has been six points and things will get difficult in Brooklyn, although the Hawks have won three straight at the Barclays Center.
On Wednesday, the Hawks prevailed, 96-91.
Paul Millsap scored 19 points and led a strong performance from the perimeter that carried the Eastern Conference regular-season champions to victory.
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.
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.
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."
Game 4 of this series will be Monday night.