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Hawks' Horford wins battle of Big Al's, beats Jazz

The SportsXchange

SALT LAKE CITY -- As far as the Utah Jazz are concerned, the wrong Al had the big game.

The Atlanta Hawks were just fine with that.

Al Horford scored a career-high 34 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter, grabbed 15 rebounds and blocked five shots to lead the Atlanta Hawks to a 102-91 win over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night at EnergySolutions Arena.

Horford's big night overshadowed a big night by the Jazz's Big Al Jefferson, who had 26 points and 11 rebounds but couldn't keep Utah (31-27) from losing its third in a row.

"I'm in a good rhythm," Horford said. "Most importantly, we're winning and we're playing well as a team. Tonight was a big win for our team."

It was the second straight home defeat for Utah, which played without starting power forward Paul Millsap and fell to 21-8 at home.

"I thought it was a gutsy win," Atlanta coach Larry Drew said. "They were real short-handed without Paul Millsap, but I thought this team is a very tough team to play in their building. I told our guys that we had to control the tempo of the game from start to finish."

That's precisely what the visitors did.

Josh Smith contributed 24 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists as the Hawks (33-23) won their fourth consecutive contest after going ahead by as many as 20 points. It was also Atlanta's third victory in a row on their current six-game swing.

"We just kept digging and playing hard," Smith said. "Any time (the Jazz) went on a run, we tried to challenge them with a layup or a big shot."

Nobody did that more than Horford, who had the sequence of the game with just over four minutes remaining. On defense, he blocked Jefferson's shot. He then raced the other way for a dunk, giving the Hawks a safer 10-point lead.

"Yeah, he was big. We were running plays through him," Drew said. "When his shot wasn't there, he was passing the ball. He got everything within our offense and guys were doing a good job of finding him. He is really playing at a high level right now, an extremely high level."

Jeff Teague scored 19 points and seven assists and former Jazz guard Devin Harris had 12 points for the Hawks, who have beaten Utah four times in a row.

Derrick Favors had 17 points and 15 rebounds in a rare start for the Jazz. Favors started at the power forward position in place of the injured Millsap, who missed the game with a sprained left ankle.

The absence was Millsap's first of the season and only the 14th injury-related miss in his seven seasons.

The Hawks controlled this game for most of the night, jumping ahead by eight points in the first quarter. Atlanta took a 56-48 lead into halftime.

Atlanta blew the game open in the third quarter, scoring the first six points of the second half. Former Hawk Marvin Williams finally got Utah on the scoreboard with a layup at the 7:36 mark of the period.

The Hawks took their largest lead at 80-60 on a bucket by big man Zaza Pachulia with 1:24 remaining in the third quarter.

The Jazz were upset about their lack of energy and effort, particularly in that third quarter when they only scored 18 points.

"We got ourselves down and it's just too hard to fight our way back," Hayward said. "You can't dig yourself that big of a hole."

DeMarre Carroll, who returned after tweaking his left knee, sparked a Jazz run with eight points in a 10-2 spurt as Utah trimmed Atlanta's lead to 90-82 with 5:32 remaining.

Horford then put an end to the Jazz run.

"I'm concerned about every loss," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We've got a game here Friday. We'll look at this and see what changes we can make, what we have to improve on and get ready for Charlotte."

Jazz guard Randy Foye scored 11 points and hit two 3-pointers, which tied him for Utah's single-season franchise record of 129 3-pointers, which Mehmet Okur set in 2006-07.

NOTES: Atlanta shooting guard Kyle Korver fell in love with Utah -- the team and the state -- during his 2 1/2 seasons with the Jazz from 2007-10. "I loved waking up and seeing the mountains every day," he said. "It's just a good lifestyle here in Utah." ... Korver even admitted he wouldn't mind playing in a Jazz uniform again. He'll become a free agent this offseason. "I would definitely listen to Utah if they came asking," Korver said. "I have a lot of respect for the organization and the Miller family, and it was just a great place to live life and play basketball." ... Small forward Marvin Williams exited the Jazz's Wednesday morning shootaround wearing a torn-apart T-shirt. The culprit? Atlanta big man Pachulia. "When I was in Atlanta, man, we went through a little stage when we were tearing guys' shirts off when they weren't looking," said Williams, who played the past seven seasons with the Hawks. "I was out there talking to Josh (Smith) and Zaza came and got me." ... Pachulia's response? "I'm a very close friend. I love Marvin and I miss him, so I got green light to make those kind of jokes."
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