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Horford's big night pushes Hawks past Pistons

The SportsXchange

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Al Horford was already enjoying the best stretch of his six-year NBA career before he took the floor Monday night. The Atlanta Hawks center still found a way to top himself.

Horford racked up 23 points and a career-high-tying 22 rebounds -- his third career 20-20 game -- while leading the Hawks to a 114-103 victory over the Detroit Pistons at The Palace.

Horford, who was averaging 24.2 points and 10 rebounds over the previous five games, helped Atlanta prevail for the fifth time in six games.

"The most important thing was we got the win. I could have done all that and I would have been upset if we lost," said Horford, whose previous 20-20 games came against the Miami Heat on Feb. 27, 2009, and against the Dallas Mavericks on Nov. 20, 2010. "I'm very happy. It is special. A 20-20 game, I've been wanting one of those all year, and I finally got one."

Josh Smith also pumped in 23 points, and Jeff Teague added 20 with 12 assists for the Hawks, who are 2-0 on their six-game road trip. Atlanta (32-23) shot 50.6 percent and made 31 assists on 40 baskets.

The combination of Horford and Teague on pick-and-rolls sets up the Hawks' half-court offense.

"When we run the offense through Al, it just spaces the floor," Hawks swingman Kyle Korver said. "Jeff's been playing well, too, and when he's coming off the pick, you've got to worry about him and then you've got to worry about Al because he's a knockdown 15- to 18-foot jump-shooter. That creates rotations for them and creates spacing for the rest of us, and that's when we're playing at our best."

Atlanta's fast break and long-range attack were also in high gear. The Hawks had 21 fast-break points and made 14 of 33 3-point tries, with Korver going 5-for-7 from long distance.

"We did a really good job of moving the ball," Atlanta coach Larry Drew said. "Our focus was to constantly create separation. We didn't want any mental letdowns on defense, and when we got the ball, we really wanted to turn it into a track meet."

Rodney Stuckey's 22 points topped Detroit (22-37), which has lost four of five games since the All-Star break. Jonas Jerebko had a season-high 21 points, and Greg Monroe contributed 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

The Pistons shot 48.8 percent but committed 17 turnovers, leading to 23 Atlanta points.

"When teams are getting a number of easy baskets, the confidence swells," Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said. "Now, it's easy to make perimeter shots. They're one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the league, and they share the basketball. All that swells up when you give them the confidence with those easy baskets."

Korver's 3-pointer with 9:23 remaining in the third gave the Hawks a 68-53 lead and prompted Frank to call a timeout. He signaled for another one after Horford hit a baseline jumper to make it 74-58.

The breaks failed to stop the onslaught, as Smith made a layup and a 25-foot 3-pointer to extend the Hawks' lead to 24. Atlanta stretched its edge to 26 before Detroit cut it down to 88-70 by the quarter's end.

Detroit never got closer than the final margin.

"I feel like we're a better defensive team than we've been showing," Jerebko said. "We've got to play harder, come out and play harder in the first quarter and finish the game strong."

Horford had 13 points and 13 rebounds by halftime as the Hawks cruised to a 61-51 lead. Horford got plenty of help from Teague, who racked up 14 points and five assists before the break. Stuckey and Monroe kept the Pistons within striking distance by combining for 26 first-half points.

NOTES: Detroit rookie guard Kim English scored a career-high 10 points. ... Detroit second-year guard Brandon Knight missed his third straight game with a hyperextended right knee. He was injured Wednesday at Charlotte. ... Pistons backup point guard Will Bynum sat out because of a one-game league suspension for striking Indiana's Tyler Hansbrough in the midsection on Saturday. ... Korver extended his streak of making at least one 3-pointer to 49 games, the longest in Hawks history. ... Pistons guard Jose Calderon had a 4.31 assists-to-turnover ratio entering the game, ranking him second in the NBA behind the Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul (4.36). He had nine assists Monday but also made four turnovers. ... The Pistons rank 15th in the league in both offensive and defensive field-goal percentage. ... The Hawks have used 18 different lineups this season. The Pistons have used just five.
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