ATLANTA - Defense took much of the night off as the Atlanta Hawks beat the Sacramento Kings 122-108 Friday night at Philips Arena.
The Hawks were put through the wringer over the last two days wondering whether one of their team captains, Josh Smith, was going to be traded, and they may have been looking past the Western Conference bottom-dwelling Kings. Early on, the Hawks were out of sorts and out-hustled by the Kings, who took the lead, thanks to 3-point shooting.
But the Hawks woke up on defense, and the Kings stopped moving the ball.
"Defensively in the first half, we had no presence," Hawks coach Larry Drew said. "It wasn't until we put Josh Smith on [DeMarcus Cousins] that he slowed down. Josh did a phenomenal job against him."
Al Horford, hampered by two fouls in the first four minutes of the game, recovered to lead the Hawks (30-23) with 24 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Smith, relieved not to have been traded in the middle of the season, scored 18 points.
Jeff Teague had 20 points and 12 assists, and DeShawn Stevenson's 17 points included five 3-pointers.
"I think we got seduced into playing their style," Horford said. "We weren't doing a good job getting back on defense. I think they were pushing the ball and exploiting our defense without being set. They kind of got rolling."
Isaiah Thomas, who came in averaging 12.3 points a game for the Kings (19-37), scored 12 points in the first quarter alone, and he finished with 30 points. Cousins scored 26 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and Tyreke Evans added 15 points.
"This is an offensive-minded team," Cousins muttered unhappily. "We're struggling in all aspects of the game. I do believe our offense carries our defense. We went away from what worked. We have a tendency to do that every game. I mean, if you haven't learned yet, you ain't trying to learn."
The Kings jumped on the Hawks early, playing with more energy and running up and down the floor. Shooting 71 percent to the Hawks' 35 percent through most of the first quarter, they built a 13-point lead twice -- at 3:20 and 1:11 -- before the Hawks were able to recover somewhat, narrowing the deficit to 33-25 by the end of the period.
But the Hawks rallied in the second quarter, thanks to Stevenson's three 3-point baskets and a 10-point quarter for Teague -- and the fact that the Kings gave them 19 points off 12 turnovers in the half. The Hawks would have had a 64-63 lead on Smith's 3-point basket at the buzzer, except that there was a clock malfunction and the bucket was disallowed. So the Kings maintained a two-point halftime lead, 63-61.
"You're feeling pretty good," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "You feel like you're going to win the game with your offense.
"We started going one-on-one, trying to get the game back ourselves. You've got to be thinking of your teammates when you go to the basket. You can't be thinking of yourself.
"There's still no reason why you didn't give the effort that was necessary to win this game on the road when we had every opportunity to win this game against this team tonight if you gave half a defensive great effort. I didn't think we had that tonight."
Notes: The Kings were down three players. Forward Patrick Patterson, center Cole Aldrich and guard Toney Douglas -- acquired Thursday from the Houston Rockets -- have not yet joined them. They are expected to meet their new team in New Orleans on Saturday. The Kings play the Hornets on Sunday. . . . Before the game, Smart shrugged off the depleted roster, noting that the starting unit was still intact and that the situation was no different than if he had three players too banged up to go. . . . Drew had to wait until 6:40 p.m. to learn that the two players the Hawks acquired Thursday -- guard Dahntay Jones from the Dallas Mavericks and forward/center Jeremy Tyler from the Golden State Warriors -- had clearance to be activated. In the case of Jones, the Hawks were waiting for Anthony Morrow, who went to Dallas, to pass his physical there. Jones was active for Friday's game; Tyler was one of the Hawks' inactive players. . . . Drew said that because the newcomers hadn't even been able to walk through plays with the Hawks, "That's a high probability that they won't see action tonight." However, Jones did play two minutes on Friday without scoring . . . Jones and Tyler arrived just in time to go on the Hawks' longest road trip of the season: six cites, 10 days. Their four huge rolling suitcases took up a large chunk of real estate in the Hawks locker room.