ATLANTA — The Atlanta Hawks closed the first half of the season with a performance reminiscent of last year.
Now, to keep it going.
Paul Millsap scored 21 points and went past 10,000 for his career, leading a dominant second half that carried the Hawks to a 114-86 rout of the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night.
Atlanta halted a two-game losing streak and reached the midpoint at 24-17. A year ago, the Hawks were 33-8, in the midst of a 19-game winning streak, and on the way to claiming the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
"It was great, the way we moved the basketball, the way we played defense," Millsap said. "The test is how do we respond Monday" in their next game against Orlando.
The Hawks have struggled to find consistency, looking at times like the 60-win juggernaut from last season — such as in a 15-point win over Chicago a week ago — but plagued by perplexing losses, like the last two to Charlotte and Milwaukee, a pair of below-.500 teams.
It looked like another baffler when Brooklyn scored the first seven points of the third quarter, tying it at 55. But the Hawks pulled away from there, pushing the lead to 84-68 by the end of the period and as many as 33 in the final quarter.
"When we play like this — the starting five, the bench, everybody contributing — it's beautiful basketball," Thabo Sefolosha said.
Millsap, who has scored at least 18 points in 11 straight games, reached the career milestone on a layup in the second quarter. He really turned it on in the decisive third period, hitting four of five shots — including a 3-pointer.
"I didn't even know until I got into the locker room," Millsap said of surpassing 10,000 points. "But it's a great accomplishment."
With both teams playing for the second night in a row and third time in four days, the Hawks were clearly the fresher team down the stretch. Brooklyn was really dragging after Sergey Karasev and Andrea Bargnani left with ankle injuries.
Thaddeus Young's pull-up jumper capped Brooklyn's spurt at the start of the second half. With the home crowd beginning to get a little restless, Atlanta suddenly turned it on, constantly beating the Nets down the court and shutting down Brooklyn in transition.
Atlanta finished with a staggering 20-2 edge in fast-break points, outscored the Nets 64-30 in the lane, and wound up shooting nearly 56 percent from the field.
"You've got to reach deep down and see how bad you want it," said Tony Brown, the Nets' interim coach.
Not nearly enough. Young led the Nets with 18 points; only two teammates were in double figures.
"I know there are nights like this is the NBA," Brown said. "But what I told them is I want to see a little more fight."
Coming off the bench, Dennis Schroder had 15 points and 10 assists for the Hawks. Kent Bazemore also scored 15, Jeff Teague added 12 and Al Horford chipped in with 10.
Atlanta's Tim Hardaway Jr. matched his season high with eight points, including a thunderous dunk in the closing minutes.
One of the biggest mysteries of the season, Hardaway played in just four of Atlanta's first 35 games after being acquired from New York on draft night for a first-round pick. But he has now played in six straight games.
"His activity defensively, his effort to get through screens and all those things, have been very good," coach Mike Budenholzer said.
Nets: Karasev went out in the first quarter with a sprained left ankle. He played only 2:47, scoring two points. ... Bargnani left in the third quarter with a sore right ankle. He had six points in just over 10 minutes of playing time. ... Joe Johnson had 14 points and Brook Lopez added 10. But 7-foot Lopez had only three rebounds.
Hawks: Teague reached 1,000 rebounds in his career. ... Kyle Korver continued to struggle, hitting just one of six shots and missing all four of his 3-point attempts.
Nets: Travel to Toronto to face the Raptors on Monday.
Hawks: Host the Magic on Monday.