Hawks' big men overthrow Kings

Rick Hurd, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SACRAMENTO -- On an Atlanta Hawks team that acknowledges it will go only as far as its defense will take it, center Al Horford and forward Paul Millsap showed Tuesday that their offensive punch down low can't be ignored, either.
Horford tallied 27 points and 10 rebounds, and Millsap added 25 points and 11 rebounds, and the two produced the three biggest shots of the game for the Hawks in a 105-100 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.
Millsap converted on two consecutive possessions after the Kings cut a 19-point fourth-quarter deficit to 96-95 with 2:46 remaining. Horford sank a running 6-foot hook shot in the lane to extend the lead to 102-97 with 1:21 left, and Atlanta beat Sacramento for the 11th consecutive time.
The Hawks (2-2) held off a furious run by Sacramento, which used a 28-12 run to turn a blowout into a nail-biter.
"We're learning from each other," Horford said of Atlanta's front-court tandem. "He's a smart player, he's growing and learning, just like I'm trying to do the same. I know we're just going to get better."
Horford recorded his third straight double-double and added two blocked shots in 35 minutes. Millsap scored in double figures for the fourth consecutive game.
Guard Isaiah Thomas scored 18 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Kings' rally from an 84-65 deficit. However, his 3-pointer with Sacramento down 103-100 went long and ended the Kings' chances.
"I think it got a little closer than we all would've liked there at the end," Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "These kinds of games are tough to win on the road when you're in someone else's (arena) and they make a big comeback on you."
Sacramento (1-3) rallied with reserve forwards Travis Outlaw, Chuck Hayes and Jason Thompson seeing significant minutes. However, the Kings still haven't defeated the Hawks since a 119-107 victory on Feb. 20, 2008.
"I'm really proud of the guys that were in during that fourth quarter," Kings coach Michael Malone said. "They competed well, but this is a story that's getting pretty old."
The Kings gave Malone the fast start he sought from his team, jumping to a 28-18 lead in the game's first 10 minutes en route to a 32-25 lead after one quarter. Then Hawks guard Jeff Teague, who tweaking his left ankle, returned; Horford and Millsap started taking over the middle; and the Hawks pressured the Kings into nine turnovers while blitzing them 57-33 in the middle two quarters.
"We started getting back in our transition defense and not turning the ball over," Horford said. "We forced them to score against our half-court defense. ... That's a big strength that we feel we have."
Teague finished with 18 points and 10 assists.
The Kings turned over the ball on their first two possession of the second half and gave it away 18 times overall, resulting in 23 Atlanta points.
"We looked like the Bad News Bears out there, and I'll take a lot of responsibility for that," Malone said. "As the head coach of this team, I have to do a better job. ... We've done a decent job of taking care of the ball in the early season, but tonight we did an awful job."
Sacramento guard Marcus Thornton had 15 points, and rookie guard Ben McLemore finished with 15 points in 23 minutes off the bench. Forward John Salmons had 13 for the Kings, but center DeMarcus Cousins was held to 11 points and was called for a flagrant foul in the fourth quarter.
NOTES: Atlanta G Kyle Korver made a 3-pointer for the 77th consecutive game, the fourth-longest streak in NBA history. Next up on the list is Dennis Scott with 78. ... The Kings used the same starting lineup as in the previous three games, but coach Michael Malone said the unit will be under constant evaluation and that he won't hesitate to make changes. ... Sacramento played three of its first four games at home, and it opens the season with eight of its first 10 games at Sleep Train Arena. ... When G Ben McLemore scored 19 against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, he became the first Sacramento rookie since G Isaiah Thomas on April 18, 2012, to be the high-scorer in a game. ... The Hawks averaged 10.7 steals per game in their first three contests. Korver, C Al Horford and G Jeff Teague were among the NBA's top 12 individually entering Tuesday's games. Horford added three steals against the Kings.

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