It marked the fourth time in as many games that Jefferson has led the Nets in scoring and stolen the spotlight from Jason Kidd and Vince Carter.
"He is playing at an All-Star level," Carter said of Jefferson. "He is definitely All-Star caliber and this year is no different. He is playing some of his best basketball. We're going to keep pushing him to keep playing that style and ride it out."
Jefferson, who missed a big chunk of last season because of right ankle surgery, is averaging 25.8 points while shooting 51.6 percent from the field.
Jefferson credited much of his success to a new offensive approach that stresses more ball movement in the half court and a fewer fast breaks.
"Our offense isn't anything different," Jefferson said. "We're not reinventing the wheel. We're not putting in the Princeton offense. We're just changing our style offensively. We're not scoring a ton of points, but we're just executing at the right times."
Kidd had nine points, 12 assists and nine rebounds in nearly collecting his second straight triple-double and helping New Jersey win for the third time in four games.
Carter had 12 points with another miserable shooting effort from the field (6-of-16), but he made two clutch baskets late to hold off the Hawks.
"We were right there at the end of the game," coach Mike Woodson said after a Hawks rally fell just short for the second straight road game. "We had our chances, but we can't keep putting ourselves in this position."
The Nets broke a 53-all tie and took control with a 16-4 spurt in the final 5:07 of the third quarter. Seven different players scored during the run as New Jersey limited the Hawks to one basket.
"We've had two solid defensive performances in a row," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "As we know last year, our biggest disappointment was being a selective defensive team. But now, we've had three of four games where we were good defensively. We want to build an identity as a team that guards every night."
New Jersey built the lead to 14 points early in the fourth quarter, before Smith, Childress and Johnson got the Hawks back in the game by combining for all the points in a 16-4 spurt. Smith's 3-pointer with about five minutes to play got Atlanta to within two at 77-75.
Carter then drove the baseline for a jam and Wright hit a layup after Hawks rookie Al Horford missed two free throws to push the lead to 81-75 with 4:14 to go.
The Hawks never got closer than three points the rest of the way, but the Nets couldn't put them away.
Kidd missed two free throws with 49.4 seconds to play and Johnson hit a 3-pointer with 39.3 seconds to go to cut the Nets lead to 85-82.
New Jersey then held the ball and Wright drove the left side of the lane for a layup with one second on the shot clock, giving New Jersey a five-point lead.
"I knew the clock was going down and I knew it was very low," said Wright. "I knew I didn't have enough time to dunk it. I just had to get it up there. I think it's just having poise."
Johnson then missed another 3-pointer and New Jersey's Darrell Armstrong was fouled. He also missed two free throws with 4.6 seconds to play.
After making his first 25 free throws this season, Jefferson banged his first off the rim. ... Guard Speedy Claxton (knee), center Zaza Pachulia (knee) and center Lorenzen Wright (foot) were inactive for the third straight game for the Hawks with injuries. ... It took 82 minutes over four games but Nets forward Jason Collins scored his first basket on a putback with 2:45 left in the third quarter. ... New Jersey has won 11 of the last 12 games at the Meadowlands against Atlanta. ... The Hawks were 23-of-32 from the free-throw line. ... Carter has hit 18-of-55 from the field this season, or 32.7 percent.