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Hawks beat Hornets again

By
John Delong, The Sports Xchange

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Atlanta Hawks were the best road team in the Eastern Conference last season, and they are off to a great start on the road again.

The Hawks spoiled the Charlotte Hornets' home opener by pulling out a 94-92 victory Sunday afternoon, ultimately holding on when Charlotte guard Kemba Walker missed a 17-footer at the buzzer that could have forced overtime.

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The Hawks went on a 10-0 run midway through the fourth quarter to erase a six-point deficit, then took the lead for good on forward Paul Millsap's 3-pointer with 40.7 seconds remaining. They are now 2-0 on the road this season and 3-1 overall.

"I think the way the group responded in the fourth quarter, after Charlotte kind of had us on our heels in the third quarter, is not easy to do on the road," Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "But we found a way to get a couple big stops, a couple big rebounds, and a couple big shots.

"If you want to have success in this league and you want to be a good team, you know how important it is to go on the road and have a road mentality. Some of the attention to detail goes even higher, the physicality has to be greater, your focus, your togetherness, all those things have to be better on the road. And I think we understand that."

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It was Atlanta's second win over the Hornets in three days. The Hawks also pulled out a tight game with a 97-94 victory in Atlanta Friday night.

"Winning a game like this helps with your confidence down the road," Hawks forward Kent Bazemore said. "I think the run we had last year going to the Eastern Conference finals really helps us in situations like that, knowing how to play championship-caliber basketball."

Bazemore led the Hawks with 20 points, including five in the final 1:12. Guard Jeff Teague scored 18, and Millsap and center Al Horford scored 16 each. Horford also had 12 rebounds.

Walker led the Hornets (0-3) with 17 points. Guard Nicolas Batum scored 16, forward Marvin Williams scored 15 with two 3-pointers in the final minute, and center Al Jefferson finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

The Hawks led by as many as 14 points in the first half and led 46-39 at halftime. But the Hornets erupted for 37 third-quarter points and led 76-70 going into the fourth.

The Hawks dug in again at that point, and fought back by holding the Hornets to one field goal in the first nine and a half minutes of the fourth quarter. Charlotte wound up shooting 16.7 percent in the fourth quarter on 4-of-24 shooting.

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"We picked up the intensity in the fourth quarter," Horford said. "I think we just buckled down and started getting stops. We just did a better job."

Millsap's 3-pointer gave the Hawks a 92-89 lead with 40.7 seconds left. After Charlotte missed twice, Bazemore pushed the lead to 94-89 with two free throws with 14.8 seconds left. Williams answered with a 3-pointer to cut the lead to two with 12.3 seconds left, and the Hornets forced a jump ball on Atlanta's next possession. The Hornets controlled the tip and got the ball to Walker for an open jumper, but the shot was long.

"Kemba's probably one of the best in the league in the open court with a full head of steam," Bazemore said. "He got to his spot, but I think he double-clutched it and that's what threw him off."

Hornets coach Steve Clifford bemoaned his team's offensive collapse in the fourth.

"What happened was, we just lacked organization there early in the fourth quarter with that group," Clifford said. "A lot of blown sets. They are hard enough to play good offense against when you're organized. We just lacked organization, plain and simple."

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NOTES: The Hornets held a moment of silence for the late Flip Saunders before the start of the game. ... G Kyle Korver (ankle) returned to the Hawks' starting lineup Sunday after missing the win over the Hornets in Atlanta Friday night. Korver had six points in 31 minutes. ... The Hornets' slow start comes after they went 7-1 in the preseason. ... Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer recorded his 100th career win in the Hawks' win over the Hornets Friday. He accomplished the feat in 167 games, making him the second-fastest coach in franchise history to reach 100 wins, behind only Lenny Wilkens (166). ... The Hornets had won their home opener each of the previous four seasons. ... The Hornets have lost F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (right shoulder surgery) for the entire season. G Troy Daniels returned after missing the first two games (hamstring). ... Sunday's game was the first of eight afternoon games the Hornets will play this season. ... The Hornets will return to action Tuesday night at home against Chicago. ... The Hawks will remain on the road for a game at Miami Tuesday.

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