Deron Williams scored 24 points, making four free throws in the final 43.4 seconds, and Brooklyn beat Atlanta 94-89 on Friday night to earn a split of a home-and-home series.
Brook Lopez added 20 points for the Nets, who bounced back from a 109-95 loss in Atlanta on Wednesday that snapped their seven-game winning streak.
The Nets pulled within two games of the first-place Knicks ahead of Monday's matchup at Madison Square Garden, their final meeting of the season. New York has won the last two after Brooklyn took the first game as city rivals.
"We've got to go in there with the mind-frame that we understand it's going to be a hostile environment and some way, somehow we've got to come out of there on top," Nets guard Joe Johnson said. "They beat us the last two times and we owe them."
Johnson, a perennial All-Star in Atlanta before the Hawks dealt him to the Nets last summer, finished with 18 points. Reggie Evans grabbed 20 rebounds as the Nets beat the Hawks for the first time in seven meetings.
"We were happy we were playing them again," Lopez said. "That's the great thing about the NBA. You play so many games, you play right after your last game, so we were up, ready to against them, you know, and we had motivation."
Jeff Teague had 21 points and 10 assists for the Hawks, who played without Horford, their starting center, and lost key reserve Lou Williams to a serious-looking right knee injury. Former Nets guard Devin Harris scored 17 and Josh Smith had 12 points and nine rebounds in his return from a one-game team suspension, but shot just 5 of 15.
The Hawks were only 5 of 22 from the field in the fourth quarter and lost for the seventh time in nine games.
"I thought particularly my guys, they really hung in there, particularly after we lost Lou Williams in the first half. We were already short-handed with no Al Horford. It made it even tougher losing Lou," Hawks coach Larry Drew said. "I thought our guys came out, I thought they played hard. We did some good things, we did some not so good things. But the energy was there. The effort was there."
In a game that was tied after each of the first three quarters, the Nets relied on solid defense to pull ahead in the fourth, then held off a late run.
It was 74-all before the Nets scored the first five of the fourth. Johnson's jumper with 8:06 left was the first basket of the quarter and made it 79-74 before the Hawks could get on the board.
The Nets pushed it to 90-82 after five free throws by Lopez and appeared safe with under three minutes left.
But the Hawks ran off seven straight, capped emphatically when Smith grabbed a rebound, drove all the way and threw down a powerful dunk over Lopez to make it 90-89. The Hawks thought they came up with a turnover but replayed showed the ball was off them, and Williams made a pair of free throws with 43 seconds to go.
Lopez blocked Teague's shot, Williams made two more from the line with 11 seconds left, and that was it.
"We had a hard time getting quality shots. When the game slowed down, we just couldn't get very good looks," Atlanta forward Kyle Korver said. "Obviously, we were missing some guys that help us get those shots. They played well. They have a lot of weapons. The Nets have a lot of size, so you have to give them credit."
Williams was only 1 of 10 from the field in the second half, saying he let some frustration with the referees affect his aggressiveness. But he made all seven free throws and will bring a streak of 47 consecutive makes into Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee.
"It's a really big game for us," Williams said. "They beat us twice now, twice in a row and it's a huge game. We're only a couple games back of them and so this is big."
Drew said Horford had a sore hamstring and calf. He was in uniform but didn't start for just the second time in Hawks' 39 games, and Drew decided not to use him at all.
Interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said before the game the Nets' transition defense had to be "400 times" better than it was Wednesday, wanting to see how his team came out in the first few minutes. The Hawks then made seven of their first eight shots, including all four 3-pointers, but the Nets stuck right with them and it was 29-all after one.
It was still tied in the second when Williams came up with a steal and was driving for a basket when his leg gave out as he tried to plant to go up for the shot with 7:12 remaining. He limped out of bounds behind the basket and was taken to the back for attention, unable to put any pressure on the leg. The Hawks said he had a sprained right knee and would undergo testing Friday night and Saturday.
Smith passed Eddie Johnson (9,631 points) for eighth on the team's career scoring list. Smith now has 9,633. ... Gerald Wallace returned to the Nets' lineup after missing two games and coming off the bench in one because of bruised ribs. He had eight points on 1-of-6 shooting. ... Nets official scorer Herb Turetzky worked his 1,200th consecutive game, a streak that began in May 1984. Turetzky is in his 46th season as the Nets' official scorer and has worked 1,887 games overall.