NEW YORK -- While Atlanta Hawks head coach Larry Drew said that he is not paying much attention to the NBA Eastern Conference standings, his standout center Al Horford certainly is.
"I knew coming in that this was a big game," said Horford, whose 22 points and 11 rebounds paced the Atlanta Hawks defeat the New Jersey Nets in a critical game for both teams. "I look at the standings every day. This was a very big win."
The victory enabled the Hawks to improve to 37-29, just a game behind the Nets (38-28) for fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Drew doesn't want to look at it as a crucial game just yet.
"We're aware of it, but there are too many games left to be played to worry about it," Drew said. "We just have to focus on each game and worry about where we stand at the end of the season."
Drew was pleased with the way his team took over in the fourth quarter, shooting 70 percent (14-of-20 from the floor) and scoring 34 points, the most the Nets have allowed in a final period this season.
"We were able to get out and run," Drew said. "We showed our quickness. We got a lot of deflections and got out to run the floor."
The Hawks had 22 fast break points compared to just six for Brooklyn. The Nets had 16 turnovers and the Hawks had 14 steals.
"We also had 30 assists as a team, showing that we can share the ball," Drew said. "When we do that, we're a pretty good club."
Jeff Teague had 15 of those assists for Atlanta, to go along with his 11 points. The 15 assists tied a career high for Teague.
Drew said that after facing the Nets three times, using a big lineup each time down the stretch, he changed things up this time and used a smaller and quicker lineup.
"The first three times, we went big," Drew said. "This time, we went small and that was a good call by the coach."
One of the players who took advantage of the fast breaks was Josh Smith, who added 21 points, eight of which came on high-flying fast break dunks.
"I think we made a conscious effort to push the basketball," Smith said. "We all drove the ball and that opened up some jump shots. Whenever you can get a couple of easy baskets, when you penetrate more, you find open shots. It makes things easier."
Besides Horford and Smith, the Hawks got 13 points from Dahntay Jones off the bench. Jones, who was acquired in a trade with Dallas Feb. 21, was averaging just 1.1 points per game in 12 games with the Hawks.
"I just kept playing hard and kept pushing the basketball," said Jones, whose previous season high was 12 for Dallas. "I just wanted to supply some energy."
Smith and Jones both made all three of their field goal attempts in the final period.
"Dahntay was great and the energy he supplied was obvious," Drew said. "He gives us another dimension out there. He also did a good job defensively on Deron Williams."
Williams was held to just one field goal attempt in the fourth quarter, but finished with 18 points and eight assists.
The Nets, headed for an eight-game road trip, lost a chance to pull into a virtual tie with the New York Knicks for first place in the Atlantic Division.
"We wanted to win this game badly, because we're going on the road for so long," said Joe Johnson, who scored 18 points in his return to the lineup after missing one game with a sore heel. "We couldn't leave on that road trip without a win, but in the fourth quarter, we allowed them to take the momentum and we couldn't get it back. They got out on the break and we didn't know how to stop them. That's why this one hurts so bad. We had a chance to do some good things."
Brook Lopez added 17 and Reggie Evans had a season-high 14 points and 22 rebounds. It was the fifth game with 20 or more rebounds this season for Evans, most in the NBA.
The Hawks had runs of 7-0 and 8-0 in the fourth quarter to put the game away. Smith had a personal highlight reel with his spinning moves and dunks.
Andray Blatche hit one of two free throws with one second left in the third to give the Nets a 73-71 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Then Jones scored on a breakaway alley-oop dunk and Jeff Teague made a steal and a layup to give the Hawks a 75-73 lead in the first minute of the final quarter, taking the lead for good.
Ivan Johnson's conventional 3-point play capped a 7-0 run to give the Hawks their biggest lead of the game at 84-77 with 7:55 left.
The Hawks then gradually pulled away from that point on.
"It's important for this team to have leadership and I think Al and Josh provided that," Drew said. "Both guys stepped up. Josh made a conscious effort of going to the basket and Al made some big shots."
"It was important for Josh and I to step up and get this win," Horford said. "We let one get away from us against them at home, so we had to make it up here."
NOTES: Before the game, Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo dismissed all talk about drawing even with the Knicks in the Atlantic Division race if his team beat the Hawks. "They have two less losses than we do," Carlesimo said. "So we're not tied with them when they have one less loss. I don't care what the numbers say. You can't be tied with someone when you have one more loss than they do. It's meaningless." The talk became a moot point, because the Nets lost. ... The Nets fielded a full roster for the first time in 10 games. ... The Nets will now be on the road for the next eight games over a course of 17 days, beginning Monday in Detroit. It's the longest road trip in the franchise's history. ... The Nets own a 16-14 road record this season. ... The Nets return home April 4 against Chicago. ... The Hawks were without Zaza Pachulia, who has a sore right Achilles. ... In honor of St. Patrick's Day, several of the players on both teams wore green sneakers. Some even went as far as to don green socks as well. ... Williams' green was more of the neon lime green, much like a highlight marker.