ATLANTA - The Atlanta Hawks took control with 19 straight points early in the game and clinched a playoff spot by beating the New Jersey Nets 98-87 on Saturday night.
Al Horford had 23 points and 12 rebounds for Atlanta, including six straight points late in the game to fend off a comeback attempt by New Jersey. Josh Smith added 22 points for the Hawks, who are in the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
Atlanta lost five-time All-Star guard Joe Johnson with a strained right thumb in the third quarter. He returned to the bench after having X-rays, but did not return to the game.
Anthony Morrow had 25 points for the Nets, who have lost six of seven.
The Hawks' big lead was 30 points in the third quarter before Morrow led a fourth-quarter surge for the Nets. A putback by Kris Humphries with 5:03 remaining cut Atlanta's lead to 10 at 88-78.
But, Horford then scored six straight points.
Morrow, a former Georgia Tech star, scored the game's first basket. That proved to be the Nets' only lead.
Johnson's three-point play launched a 19-0 run for the Hawks, putting Atlanta up by 17 midway through the opening quarter. The Hawks kept the lead in double figures the rest of the way.
The Hawks needed a confidence boost after losing four of five and eight of 11.
Johnson had 12 points before hurting his right thumb early in the third quarter as he reached for a loose ball. Johnson was escorted to the locker room for X-rays before returning to the bench.
After watching the remainder of the third quarter with ice on his hand, he returned to the locker room for the final period.
The loss left the Nets on the verge of elimination from playoff contention. A win by Indiana over Detroit on Saturday night would end the Nets' playoff hopes.
New Jersey's Sasha Vujacic had 13 points, while Humphries and Johan Petro each had 12.
Notes: Nets coach Avery Johnson said G Quinton Ross will likely miss the remainder of the season due to "another disk situation." Ross missed 12 games earlier this season with a back injury and now has missed five straight. ... G Deron Williams was with the Nets but was inactive for the fifth straight game with a strained tendon in his right wrist. Johnson said he expects an update on Williams next week. ... The Nets did not shoot a free throw in the first half. ... The Nets fell to 5-32 on the road.