ATLANTA — Paul Millsap scored 19 points and the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks again survived a tougher-than-expected test from the Brooklyn Nets, holding on for a 96-91 victory and a 2-0 lead in their Eastern Conference playoff series Wednesday night.
Squandering an early 12-point lead, the Hawks fell behind before halftime and spent the rest of the game struggling to put away the No. 8 seed.
It went down to the wire. Deron Williams missed an open 15-foot jumper that would've tied it with about 10 seconds to go. Kyle Korver rebounded, was fouled and made two free throws to clinch Atlanta's win.
The best-of-seven series shifts to Brooklyn for the next two contests. Game 3 is Saturday.
Millsap, who missed five games near the end of the season with a sprained right shoulder, ditched a pad that he felt restricted his shooting motion. He responded by hitting 7 of 11 shots.
Jarrett Jack led the Nets with 23 points off the bench, and Brook Lopez had 20.
During the first half, the Hawks announced the team was being sold to a group led by billionaire businessman Antony Ressler for $850 million. Former NBA star Grant Hill is also part of the group, which still must be approved by the league's owners.
If the Hawks were distracted by the off-the-court developments, they didn't show it in the early going. In a repeat of Game 1, Atlanta jumped ahead quickly, going up 27-15 on Al Horford's jumper with just under 2 1/2 minutes left in the first quarter.
The Nets fought back, just as they did in the opener won by the Hawks 99-92. Brooklyn closed the first on a 9-2 run, then ripped off 12 straight points in the second period to take its first lead. Jack and Bojan Bogdanovic each knocked down a 3-pointer to spark the outburst, and Joe Johnson finished it off by hitting a 12-foot jumper.
The Hawks hardly looked like a team that set a franchise record with 60 wins and finished 22 games ahead of Brooklyn in the East. They missed nine straight shots and turned it over three times before Millsap's layup broke the skid.
Atlanta led 50-47 at the half.
Even after the Hawks pushed back out to an 11-point lead in the final quarter, Brooklyn wouldn't go away. Jack hit another 3 from the corner to bring the Nets to 90-89. After DeMarre Carroll scored his only basket of the night off a slick pass from Millsap, Alan Anderson made a reverse layup off the baseline to again make it a one-point game.
Millsap was fouled on a drive with 28.6 seconds left but made only one of two free throws, giving the Nets a chance to tie it or go ahead from beyond the arc.
They couldn't have asked for a better look. Williams faked a 3 from the corner, sending Kent Bazemore flying by, and stepped up for a shot with no one around. It spun around the rim and was snatched by Korver.
Two free throws later, the Hawks had finally prevailed.
Nets: F Mirza Teletovic played his first game in three months after being treated for multiple blood clots in his lungs. He played just under 4 minutes and missed a pair of shots. ... Johnson scored 19 points, but Brooklyn's other three starters — Williams, Bogdanovic and Thaddeus Young — combined for only 12.
Hawks: Carroll had a tough night after scoring 17 points in Game 1. He went 1 of 8 from the field, missing all five of his attempts from 3-point range. ... Horford didn't seem bothered by a dislocated pinky finger. With his right hand taped, he scored 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.
BATTLE OF THE BOARDS
The Nets continue to dominate on the boards, helping them stay close to the Hawks. Brooklyn held a 49-41 edge, led by Williams with 10 rebounds.
Atlanta failed to get much help from its guards. Outside of Horford, Carroll (eight rebounds) and Millsap (seven), no one on the Hawks had more than three.