CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer's message to his team at halftime Monday night was succinct. Quit fouling, and pick up the defense.
That's precisely what the Hawks did en route to a 103-94 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.
Trailing by eight at intermission, the Hawks outscored the Bobcats 34-16 in the third quarter, holding the Bobcats to six-of-18 shooting and sending the Bobcats to the line only three times. The Hawks went on to lead by as many as 14 in the fourth quarter and stifled a late Bobcats rally down the stretch.
"At halftime, Coach told us to stop fouling, be better on defense and just keep playing on offense, and that's what we did," said center Al Horford, who scored 13 points in the third quarter and finished with a game-high 24 points. "We responded to Coach's call defensively. We just came out with more energy and aggressiveness in the third quarter. I was encouraged by what we did tonight."
The Hawks have now won two straight and are 4-3 overall.
"It was another step forward for our defense," Budenholzer said. "We had some foul trouble early and the bench picked us up, and then in the third quarter keeping them off the free-throw line was a point of emphasis, and they had two free throws (sic) and 16 points in the third quarter, and that's where we got our separation. I think our focus is to get better defensively, and tonight for more stretches we were better.
"The free throws were a big thing. Coming into the game, that was a point of emphasis. In the five or six games they had played, they were good at getting to the line. So we wanted to show our hands. We wanted to be physical. But without fouling."
The Hawks have now beaten the Bobcats nine straight times over the past three seasons.
The Hawks also got 16 points off the bench from forward Cartier Martin, 14 points and 12 assists from guard Jeff Teague, and 11 points from guard Kyle Korver. Martin had two key 3-pointers in the third-quarter deluge and Horford was six of eight from the field with a 3-pointer in the period.
The Bobcats wound up shooting just 40.7 percent from the field, on 33 of 81.
"We took pride in our defense in the second half," Teague said. "We knew someone was going to have to make a defensive stop and get some runs going, and we did that. And obviously it helped us win."
The Bobcats, 3-4, were welcoming back coach Steve Clifford and center Al Jefferson.
Clifford was back on the bench after having two stents put into his heart on Friday, after suffering chest pains last Thursday. He checked out of the hospital on Sunday.
"I'm lucky the way it worked out," Clifford said of his health scare. "I'm going to do exactly what they tell me to do. I might sleep in some and work out of the house, but I think I'll be good after a couple of weeks."
Jefferson, who signed a three-year, $41 million contract over the summer, had missed the previous five games and most of the preseason with an ankle injury. He played 27 minutes and finished with 10 points and seven rebounds, on 5-for-11 shooting.
Forward Josh McRoberts led the Bobcats with 19 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 16, all in the first half. Guard Kemba Walker was held to 12 on 3-of-11 shooting, guard Gerald Henderson scored 11, and guards Ramon Sessions and Jeffery Taylor scored 10 each.
NOTES: This was the first of four meetings this season between the Southeast Division rivals. They won't meet again, though, until late December. ... Hawks G Kyle Korver hit two 3-pointers, extending his streak to 80 straight games with at least one 3-pointer. The NBA record belongs to Dana Barros with 89 straight. ... The Hawks led the NBA in assists entering the game at 28.3 per game, and were second in the league in steals, averaging 10.5 per game. ... The Bobcats continue to be without C Brendan Haywood, who has a stress fracture in his left foot and could miss two months. Hawks G Louis Williams still hasn't played yet this season as he rehabs his right knee. ... Hawks F Paul Millsap led the team in scoring coming into the game at 20.2, which is 22nd in the NBA. He finished with nine points. ... G Kemba Walker has never missed a game since entering the league two years ago. He played in his 155th straight game on Monday. ... Bobcats assistant Bob Weiss was the Hawks' head coach from 1990-93. ... Charlotte C Bismack Biyombo and Hawks C Gustavo Ayon were teammates with Baloncesto Fuenlabrada in Spain in 2010-11. ... The Bobcats will play at Boston on Wednesday. ... The Hawks will return home to host New York on Wednesday.