Once the Hawks started rolling, there was no stopping them.
The Pistons offered little resistance any way.
The Hawks built a 26-point lead and posted a 114-103 victory over the Pistons Monday night at The Palace at Auburn Hills. The victory moves the Hawks into a fourth-place tie with the Nets in the Eastern Conference.
Al Horford continued his strong scoring efforts. He finished with 23 points and 22 rebounds, tying a career-high. It was the sixth straight game Horford has scored 20 or more points. Horford put an exclamation point on his effort by hitting a 3-pointer in the final minutes.
“I think he’s trying to prove to everybody that he should have been an All-Star,” Jeff Teague said. “He is a really good player. We all know that. He is showing everybody what he can do. Twenty-two rebounds tonight. That’s big.”
It was the first 20-20 game for Horford, and the Hawks, since he accomplished the feat Nov. 20, 2010 against the Mavericks.
“The key to the rebounds was our guards, honestly,” Horford said. “I was getting the rebounds but the reason was our guards did a great job containing off the dribble. That allowed me to stay attached to those big guys. In the past, I have to go help and then we have problems with offensive rebounds. Tonight, they did a great job and it allowed me to just get them. All I had to do was box out.”
The Hawks also got 20-point efforts from Josh Smith (23) and Teague (20). Kyle Korver (15) and Devin Harris (11) rounded out the double-digit scorers. Teague had a double-double with 12 assists. Korver extended his streak to 49 consecutive games with a 3-pointer.
The Hawks (32-23) won their third straight game and have victories in six of their past seven games. The win was their fourth straight, two coming at the start of a six-game venture away from home.
The Pistons (22-37) have lost three in a row. Rodney Stuckey was the leading scorer with 22 points.
The Hawks trailed by as many as seven points in the first quarter. However, they led by three by the end of the opening stanza. Once Harris hit a 3-pointer with 34 seconds left in the first, the Hawks never trailed. The lead was 10 at intermission. The Hawks used a 25-9 run to open the third quarter to give the Hawks a 26-point lead and the rout was in full affect. The Pistons rallied in the fourth quarter but the Hawks emptied their bench in the final two minutes.
“Coming into this game my biggest concern was a mental letdown,” coach Larry Drew said. “When you are playing a team that is depleted, battling injury, the tendency for us has been to have a mental letdown. Tonight, I think our guys, after getting off to a slow start, really picked it up in the second quarter. We got out and ran. Defensively we did some really good things.”
The Hawks lead 61-51 at the intermission as Horford had an early double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds. Teague (14) and Smith (11) also had double digits by halftime.
Coach Larry Drew was concerned with controlling the Pistons’ rebounding. The Hawks were even, 20-20, by the intermission. The Pistons finished with a 41-37 edge but that cushion came in the final minutes.
The Hawks won the season series from the Pistons, 2-1.
The Hawks are a win away from matching their season-best 10 games over .500. Smith said the team is playing every bit as well now as they were early on.
“We are playing with an edge,” Smith said. “We are playing confident. Whenever we are playing confident like that and just having fun out there, it’s fun to be a part of.”
The Hawks continue their road trip at the Jazz Wednesday. They conclude the trip against three other Western Conference opponents, the Suns, Lakers and Nuggets.