ATLANTA - It was right there for the taking, dangling like a piñata.
The Nets had fought back after a sluggish start, clawing within striking distance and fraying a few nerves of those clad in red T-shirts inside Philips Arena. The ball was in the hands of Joe Johnson and he had his eyes on the basket, putting his head down and motoring toward it. With his team down by two points, he tossed up a reverse layup and it missed with 1:45 remaining, possibly foiling the eighth-seeded Nets' true chance at upsetting the top-seeded Hawks.
Atlanta closed out the Nets with a 10-2 run and pulled out a 107-97 victory Wednesday night, pushing the Nets to the brink of elimination.
The Hawks lead the series 3-2 with Game 6 at Barclays Center Friday.
"In the last couple of minutes they just made more plays than us," Nets coach Lionel Hollins said.
Alan Anderson, who started the second half in place of Bojan Bogdanovic, paced the Nets with 23 points off the bench. Jarrett Jack and Johnson added 18 points apiece for the Nets, who didn't get a single point from Brook Lopez or Deron Williams in the fourth quarter.
DeMarre Carroll was more than a handful again and burned the Nets for 24 points and seven rebounds. Al Horford and Jeff Teague had 20 points apiece for the Hawks.
The Nets were beaten on the boards, 43-35. Horford had 15 rebounds.
Trailing 82-70 heading into the fourth quarter, the Nets used a 7-0 run to climb right back into it and found themselves down 90-89 when Jack sank a floater in the lane, capping an impressive stretch in which he scored 12 straight points and helped get the Nets closer than they had been since they trailed 13-8 in the first quarter.
But things unraveled once Johnson missed that reverse layup with the Nets down 97-95. Horford drilled a jumper on Atlanta's ensuing possession and following a critical Jack turnover, Teague banked in a layup. Teague also hit a floater with 42.2 seconds remaining and just like that, the Nets were in a 103-95 hole.
Williams, who had five points and went 2-for-8 from the field two days after his stirring 35-point performance in Game 4, reverted to the less aggressive version of himself in the series' initial three games. He misfired on his first four attempts and didn't can a bucket until he sank a floater with 3:03 remaining in the first half, drawing the Nets within 46-38.
Since Williams, Johnson and Lopez were a combined 5-for-16 through the opening two quarters, the Nets badly needed someone to pick them up offensively and Anderson was up to the task. One of the team's most underrated and unheralded players, Anderson tossed in 14 points in the Nets' 28-point second quarter, hitting all five shots -- three beyond the arc -- to fuel their attack.
How much of an aberration is that? Anderson hadn't scored more than nine points in a quarter all season, but the Nets would have been much worse off without him. Anderson had a four-point play that brought the Nets within 48-42 and his two-handed baseline dunk just before halftime shaved Atlanta's lead to 53-44.
But the Nets just couldn't overcome their slow start, something that's been an issue in each of their last five outings in the Peach State, particularly in this postseason. Atlanta was focused at the outset and the Nets looked like they were in a quagmire, shooting 33 percent from the floor while allowing the Hawks to drain 58.3 percent and grab a lead as large as 17 points in the first half.