For the second straight night, the New Jersey Nets made a late run, but came up short. This time it was a 98-87 loss to the Atlanta Hawks after being down by as many as 30 in the third quarter Saturday night in the final game of a three-game road trip.
After chipping away at the lead, the Nets finally ripped off a 12-2 run to make it a 10 point game with just over five minutes remaining in the game. Al Horford then scored six straight points to put an end to the comeback bid.
Anthony Morrow scored 25 points in his return to the city he played his college basketball. Sasha Vujacic added 13, while Kris Humphries and Johan Petro each scored 12.
With the help of those game-clinching six points, Horford finished with a team-high 23 points and dominated the glass by pulling down a game-high 12 rebounds. Josh Smith scored 22 points and sixth man Jamal Crawford poured in 18 off the bench.
The Hawks lost Joe Johnson in the third quarter with a sprained thumb he suffered while going for a loose ball. Johnson, who had 12 points when he left the game, will at least miss Atlanta's game Sunday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
With this loss, New Jersey's magic number to be eliminated from the playoffs is now one. Any Nets loss or Indiana Pacers victory will officially end the quest for a playoff spot. Atlanta, on the other hand, clinched a berth on Saturday night.
The Nets will now get two much needed days off before welcoming the Houston Rockets to the Prudential Center for a quick one-game stop in Newark.