NEW YORK — The Atlanta Hawks made it look easy for three games and three quarters against the Brooklyn Nets. And when it finally got difficult, it was exactly what they wanted.
Unshaken by problems off and on the court Wednesday night, the Hawks got the go-ahead basket on Al Horford’s dunk with 19 seconds remaining and beat the Nets 114-111 to complete a season sweep.
Playing without injured All-Star Paul Millsap and further short-handed after Pero Antic and Thabo Sefolosha were arrested early Wednesday and didn’t play, the Hawks recovered after blowing a 12-point, fourth-quarter lead.
“Brooklyn made a heck of a comeback. For our guys to keep their poise and to keep their composure and stay together and execute in some crucial moments on both ends of the court, that’s what you need going down the stretch,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said.
The Nets have closed strong with just four losses since mid-March, but that won’t matter unless they get in the playoffs.
Horford scored 24 points and Mike Scott had 20 points and eight rebounds for the Hawks, who won their third straight and weren’t fazed by the extra attention springing from the arrests.
“No, not at all,” Horford said. “Our focus (was) on this game, this team. We did a good job of that. We came out and we were ready to play.”
Brook Lopez had 26 points and 10 rebounds for the Nets. They fell into a tie with Boston for seventh place in the Eastern Conference, with the Celtics owning the tiebreaker.
That means the Nets would be eighth if the season ended Wednesday and staring at a first-round matchup against the Hawks, who beat Brooklyn by 32 in Atlanta on Saturday night and had “overwhelmed” the Nets in the first three meetings this season, coach Lionel Hollins said before the game.
The Hawks then made nine of their first 12 shots and were barely threatened through three quarters.
But down 12 with 8 1/2 minutes remaining, the Nets put together a 12-2 flurry behind Joe Johnson and Jarrett Jack to cut it to 107-105, and were ahead 111-110 after Deron Williams’ basket with 33.5 seconds remaining.
“Tonight they came out, hit us in the mouth early, but we just stayed with it,” Jack said. “We fought, we clawed and that’s just the resilience that we have if we want to make it to that goal that we set for ourselves at the beginning of the season.”
But Atlanta answered quickly with Kyle Korver firing a pass inside to Horford, who was open after Lopez cheated too far out onto the 3-point ace and had an easy dunk. After Jack and Bojan Bogdanovic missed from the perimeter on the next trip, Jeff Teague added a pair of free throws with 2.7 seconds left. Johnson, a former Hawks star, had a tying 3-point try go in and out.
Johnson scored 21 points for the Nets, who will be swapping first-round picks with the Hawks because of their trade for the former All-Star in 2012. It could be a lottery pick if Brooklyn can’t hold onto postseason position.
“We’re still a confident group,” Johnson said. “Obviously they had handled us pretty much three straight games, basically been no contest, but tonight we gave them a bit of a run.”
DeMarre Carroll finished with 19 points and nine rebounds, and Teague had 15 points, 12 assists and six rebounds to cap a long day for the Hawks.
Antic and Sefolosha were arrested early Wednesday after police said they blocked officers from trying to start their investigation after Indiana Pacers forward Chris Copeland and two women were stabbed following an argument on the street near a Manhattan nightclub. Antic and Sefolosha were charged with obstructing governmental authority and disorderly conduct. They apologized in a statement through the Hawks and said they would contest the charges.