ATLANTA (AP) — Al Horford banged his dislocated finger and spent much of the game fiddling with it. Jeff Teague twisted his right ankle and hobbled to the locker room for a quick tape job.
By the end of the night, they were both feeling just fine.
Horford and Teague scored 20 points apiece, helping the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks hold off the Brooklyn Nets 107-97 Wednesday night in an NBA playoff series that’s closer than anyone envisioned.
Down by 17 at the end of the first quarter, Brooklyn might have returned home with an improbable lead if not for Horford and Teague.
With two fingers on his shooting hand taped together, Horford flew around the court in the fourth quarter, crashing the boards, knocking down jumpers and exhorting his teammates to hold off the eighth-seeded Nets.
In the final minutes, Teague darted into the lane on his taped ankle for a pair of baskets that sealed another hard-fought victory. He let out a rare burst of emotion, screaming and waving his arms to pump up the home crowd, which included prospective new owner Antony Ressler and his wife, actress Jami Gertz.
“It’s the playoffs,” said DeMarre Carroll, who led the Hawks with 24 points but also had his right hand wrapped up after taking a hard fall. “You don’t have injuries in the playoffs.”
Atlanta leads 3-2 in the best-of-seven series, with Game 6 Friday night in Brooklyn. If needed, Game 7 would be back at Philips Arena on Sunday.
“The playoffs are a new season,” said Horford, who dislocated his right pinky in Game 1 but has played through the pain. “You never underestimate any team.”
Alan Anderson led the Nets with 23 points off the bench. Jarrett Jack added 18 as the Brooklyn backups totally dominated Atlanta’s reserves, forcing the Hawks to rely almost entirely on their starters. Carroll played more than 42 minutes. Kyle Korver and Paul Millsap also went more than 40 minutes.
“This was a game we really wanted to get,” said Korver, who made five 3-pointers and finished with 17 points.
Horford appeared to bang his finger in the first half, clearly causing him plenty of discomfort. He had it sprayed at one point and was constantly tinkering with the tape job. But he still managed to make 10 of 17 shots and grab 15 rebounds.
Teague, meanwhile, landed on Brook Lopez’s foot early in the third quarter and hobbled straight to the locker room. He was back in the game less than 3 minutes later.
The Nets have been competitive in all three games in Atlanta, losing by a combined 22 points. This was actually the first game in the series decided by a double-digit margin, and that was only because the Hawks hit four straight free throws in the final 30 seconds.
“They knocked us back in the beginning,” Nets coach Lionel Hollins said. “But we fought back.”
Jack hit back-to-back 3-pointers and drove for a floater in the lane that closed the gap to 90-89. That was as close as Brooklyn got, though Joe Johnson hit two more 3s to pull the Nets to 97-95 — their last gasp, it turned out.
“We responded,” Jack said. “Maybe a little too late.”
Nets: Johnson scored 18 points. … Anderson made all four of his shots beyond the arc. … After a big performance in Brooklyn’s overtime win in Game 4, Deron Williams was held to five points on 2-of-8 shooting.
Hawks: Ressler and his wife joined two other members of his proposed ownership group, Spanx founder Sara Blakely and her husband, Jesse Itzler, who live in Atlanta. Last week, it was announced those three, along with former NBA star Grant Hill and New York-based businessman Rich Schnall, had reached an agreement to purchase the Hawks for $850 million. The deal still must be approved by NBA owners. … Atlanta got only 16 points for its bench.
Korver was recognized before the game as the winner of the NBA Sportsmanship Award.
He is the first Hawks player to win the trophy, which was presented to him by teammate Elton Brand, the 2006 winner while with the Los Angeles Clippers, and former Hawks center Dikembe Mutombo, a recent selection to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
BIG MAN BLUES
Brook Lopez played nearly 39 minutes, far more than the Nets would have preferred for their 7-foot center.
The early deficit forced Hollins’ hand.
“We just couldn’t afford to sub with another big man,” the coach said. “Being behind like that changed everything.”
Lopez scored 15 points but had only three rebounds. The Nets were beaten on the boards 43-35.
“He’s been gassed the last two games,” Hollins said. “I just have to figure out a way to give him a little more rest.”
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