NEW YORK — Hungry to make the NBA playoffs, the Atlanta Hawks would have been thrilled with a win anyway they could get it.
But with a 93-88 victory over the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center on Friday night came from a strong defensive effort was even more pleasing for a Hawks team that cut its magic number to clinch the No. 8 seed in the East to just one.
“It wasn’t even about offense tonight. Our defense stepped up big-time,” forward Paul Millsap said. “It says a lot about our team, about what we’re trying to accomplish here.”
The defensive effort was so solid, the Hawks were able to practically laugh away shooting 1-of-19 from 3-point range for the game.
“Many people probably wouldn’t think we could win a game making just one 3,” Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I think that’s probably what you look at when you look at the stat sheet. Our defense allowed us to win a game when we only hit one three-point shot.”
Millsap, who scored a game-high 27 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, scored the lone 3-pointer. But his biggest basket came after forward Mason Plumlee (team-high 17 points) gave the Nets (43-36) an 88-87 lead on a 3-point play with 2:22 remaining in the fourth.
Millsap’s response came just 18 seconds later, a tough reverse layup that put the Hawks up for good.
“Things like that kind of turn games around,” Millsap said. “It just so happened to be me tonight. Throughout the course of the season, somebody has to make that shot. Jeff (Teague) makes a lot of those shots. It happened at the right time.”
Brooklyn had its chances down the stretch, but went 0-for-5 from the field and forward Paul Pierce (13 points), who became the fourth active player and 18th overall in the NBA to score 25,000 career points, missed a pair of free throws down the stretch.
“I’m shooting 83 percent on the year and I missed four free throws tonight. That’s very uncharacteristic,” Pierce said. “I don’t know, maybe it’s the lack of focus from the 25,000th point. I don’t know. I can’t really put my finger on it, my daughter’s birthday party tonight. There was so much going on, but we’ve got to be better in those situations.”
For the game, the Nets shot 56 percent from the foul line as their franchise-best 15-game winning streak was snapped.
“That’s basketball. It happens,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said. “Guys that normally step up and knocked them down don’t. We’ll get back tomorrow and hopefully shoot some free throws and go from there.”
Guard Jeff Teague, who Millsap said was in “attack mode” the entire game, got to the basket at will, scoring 22 points. He capped a 16-4 run in the second quarter on a 3-point play after being fouled by his brother Marquis Teague.
The sibling abuse continued as Jeff Teague scored the final two of his 14 second-quarter points from the foul line after being fouled by Marquis after crossing him over, to send the Hawks into halftime with a 55-47 lead.
“We were giving Jeff a hard time about what he was going to do to his brother tonight,” forward Kyle Korver said. “I said Jeff, take it easy on him, we’ve got to win the game. He did not take it easy on him.”
Jeff Teague said he didn’t take any special pleasure from scoring seemingly at will against his brother. It was strictly business, never personal.
“It’s just another game,” he said. “I’m always aggressive. That’s how I’ve got to play.”
NOTES: G Shaun Livingston (sprained right big toe), G Deron Williams (right patella tendinitis) and F Alan Anderson (sore abdominal muscle) were out for the Nets, while F/C Andray Blatche missed his third game due to an illness. It was the first game Anderson missed this season. … The Hawks mourned the death of “Sweet” Lou Hudson, whose No. 23 is one of three retired jerseys at Philips Arena. Hudson, 69, died in Atlanta, where he was hospitalized after a stroke last month. There was a moment of silence before the game. “Lou Hudson holds a special place in the Hawks family, in the hearts of our fans and in the history of our club,” Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon said in a statement. … The Hawks return home to take on the Heat Saturday in the first of back-to-back home games. … The Nets take on the Magic Sunday in the second of three straight at Barclays Center.
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