P.J. Carlesimo figured the Nets would need to have their track shoes on Friday night, all because of the Hawks' breakneck, up-tempo pace.
Perhaps some pairs of blades would've been more appropriate. The Nets found themselves skating on thin ice for most of the game, failing to put away a Hawks team that was missing Al Horford.
Things were very much in doubt until Deron Williams sank two free throws with 11.7 seconds left, lifting the Nets to a 94-89 win at Barclays Center.
Though it certainly wasn't one to put in their vault of impressive performances, the Nets (24-16) made the necessary plays to pull it out in the waning moments. They improved to 10-2 under Carlesimo, including 7-0 at home.
"We didn't close it out great," Joe Johnson said, "but a win is a win."
Jeff Teague had 21 points and 10 assists for the Hawks, who couldn't sweep the home-and-home series.
The score was tied at 74 entering the final quarter, which was only fitting because it also was knotted after each of the first two quarters. The Nets got the Hawks (22-17) into the penalty foul situation with 8:47 remaining, and even though they clanked six free throws in the fourth quarter, they still drained 12 of 18. The Nets took a 90-82 lead with 2:50 left when Lopez swished a pair.
"To beat a good team, you have to make free throws," Carlesimo said. "We were fortunate we were able to win with the free throws we missed. But we did a great job getting to the line. We just didn't take advantage of it."
When Josh Smith threw down a lefthanded tomahawk dunk over Lopez to whittle the Nets' lead to 90-89 with 1:02 left, there was a collective gasp from most of the sellout crowd of 17,732.
But Williams sank two free throws with 43.4 seconds left to push the lead back to three and Lopez swatted Teague's shot on the Hawks' ensuing possession. The Nets got the ball and Williams was fouled with 11.7 seconds left. His two free throws gave the Nets a five-point lead and extended his streak of consecutive made free throws to 47.
After going 1-for-7 from the floor in the third quarter and missing all three field-goal attempts in the fourth, Williams came through late, driving to the basket and looking to make a play.
"I stopped being a little aggressive and started settling," Williams said. "I let the refs get to me a little bit in that third quarter, kind of take me out of my game. I thought I got fouled on a couple of plays and started doing too much whining. So that was my fault because it took my aggressiveness away and I kind of wanted to get that back at the end of the game."
Johnson downplayed the win, something he wasn't about to do when the conversation turned to the Knicks, whom the Nets play at the Garden Monday afternoon.
"They beat us the last two times," he said, "and we owe them."