ATLANTA - Everyone was focused on the person who's in the crosshairs of the Hawks' fans and Joe Johnson waited patiently to dissect the defense, swinging it to the Nets' $98-million man in the corner.
Deron Williams was wide open, pump-faking Kent Bazemore into the air to allow him to get a better look. He took a few dribbles along the baseline and let it fly, watching as his baseline jumper rattled in and out, a frustrating feeling knowing the Nets could have tied it.
Instead, the top-seeded Hawks escaped with a 96-91 win over the eighth-seeded Nets at Philips Arena Wednesday night.
And just like that, the Nets find themselves in a 2-0 hole in their Eastern Conference first-round series with Atlanta with things shifting to Brooklyn. Game 3 is set for 3 p.m. Saturday at Barclays Center.
"We had our chances here," Nets coach Lionel Hollins said. "Now it's time for us to go home and hold serve."
Jarrett Jack led the Nets with 23 points off the bench. Brook Lopez had 20 points and seven rebounds, and Johnson added 19 points and nine rebounds.
Paul Millsap scored 19 points with seven rebounds for the Hawks, Kyle Korver had 17 points and Al Horford showed no ill effects from his pinkie injury, finishing with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
The Nets stormed back from a 12-point deficit on the strength of a 14-4 run near the end of the fourth quarter to make things interesting late, taking advantage of their production inside the paint. They outscored the Hawks 38-28 on the interior.
Atlanta hasn't made it easy for Lopez in this series, getting him out of his comfort zone as much as possible. Horford and Pero Antic keep pushing him far off the blocks, forcing him to catch the ball more than eight feet away from the basket. But at least Lopez got more touches than he did in the opener, when the Nets weren't very aggressive in finding their 7-footer.
Lopez's seven first-half shots equaled the number he took Sunday, a good indicator of the Nets' determination to go to him early. With Jack and Johnson also hot, the Nets fought back from a 12-point, first-quarter deficit, doing it despite not getting significant production from Williams or Lopez's front line mate Thaddeus Young.
Young is struggling and has been little help so far in this series. He misfired on his initial five shots and didn't connect on his first field goal until 6:48 remained in the fourth.
Young was particularly brutal in the third quarter, misfiring on a pair of free throws that could have put the Nets ahead by two with 6:21 remaining and committing an offensive foul.
Williams also was a non-factor, once again getting outplayed by the Hawks' Jeff Teague. Although Williams had 10 rebounds and eight assists, he's passing up open shots, meaning the Hawks are not concerned about leaving him open. He went 1-for-7 from the floor, hoisting just two shots in the second half.
Williams at one point thought he might have an easy putback layup, but Horford had other ideas, erasing Williams' shot as if he was playing volleyball. That sparked yet another Hawks fast break, one that was capped by a Horford jumper nine seconds after he swatted Williams' attempt.
"Man, it's tough," Jack said. "You come in here wanting to steal one and we pretty much thought this was the game."