Horford scores career high in Hawks win over Jazz


Horford scores career high in Hawks win over Jazz

Now, the Hawks can get greedy.

With an impressive victory over the Jazz Wednesday, the Hawks have won three to start a six-game road trip. Suddenly a much-better-than-.500 excursion is a real possibility.

The Hawks led by as many as 20 points and held off a late rally en route to a 102-91 victory over the Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena.

Al Horford was at the center of the victory as he scored 16 of the Hawks’ 20 fourth-quarter points on the way to a career-high 34 points.

“He was big,” coach Larry Drew said. “We were running plays for him. When the shot wasn’t there he was passing the ball. He got everything within our offense. The guys were doing a good job of finding him. He is really playing at a high level right now. I mean an extremely high level.”

The Hawks (33-23) won their fourth straight and sixth in the past seven games. It was also the fifth straight road victory for the Hawks, who surpassed the 100-point mark in each. The Hawks have won four straight over the Jazz.

Horford continued his torrid streak over the past seven games, scoring over 20 points in each. He added 15 rebounds. Over this stretch of games, Horford is averaging 25.4 points (178), 12.4 rebounds (87) while shooting .681 percent (79-116).

“I’m in a good rhythm,” Horford said in the understatement of the season.

Josh Smith added 24 points and 14 rebounds and Jeff Teague had 19 points for the Hawks, who moved back into a fourth-place tie with the idle Nets in the Eastern Conference.

The Jazz (31-27) lost for only the eighth time at home this season. It was their third straight loss. Al Jefferson scored 26 points for the Jazz, who closed within eight points in the fourth quarter. Derrick Favors added 17 points and 15 rebounds.

The Hawks took a 56-48 lead into halftime. They led by as many as seven points in the first quarter and nine points in the second quarter. They used a 10-3 run to break an 8-8 tie and never trailed again.

The Hawks sealed the game by opening the third quarter on a 24-12 run to lead by 20 points, 80-60.

“The start of the second half was the bigger of the two,” Smith said of the Hawks’ first- and third-quarter efforts. “We wanted to be able to control the momentum of this building. It’s a hostile environment. They have awesome fans who definitely heckle the visiting team. We knew we were going to receive a big punch in the second half and being able to answer in that third quarter was huge for us.”

The Jazz got to within eight points in the fourth quarter but there was not stopping Horford. He and Smith scored all 20 of the Hawks’ points in the final period.

“It was one of those things where in my mind I was like we’ve built this lead and we’ve worked too hard to give it up,” Horford said. “It’s one of those things where you don’t want to lose so you do whatever you have to do. We just kept fighting. I just kept fighting. I’m proud of my teammates.”

Devin Harris had 12 points for the Hawks, who had another 20-plus assist game (23). Kyle Korver extended his streak to 50 straight games with a 3-pointer. All nine players who entered the game scored at least two points.

“We are playing team ball,” Teague said. “The bench is crazy. Everyone is having a lot of fun. When we are playing like that it’s just a lot of fun. It’s a joy to play.”

The Hawks continue their season-long trip Friday against the Suns. They end the trip against the Lakers Sunday and the Nuggets Monday.

“We will not be satisfied,” Drew said. “I will not allow them to be satisfied just getting these first three wins.”

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