Hawks 101, Bobcats 91

Atlanta Hawks coach Larry Drew warned his team to take the
Charlotte Bobcats seriously and forget all about their record last
season.

It sure looked as if his players were listening.

Al Horford had 26 points and 13 rebounds, and the Atlanta Hawks
beat the Charlotte Bobcats 101-91 on Friday night for their fourth
consecutive victory.

Horford called it one of Atlanta’s best games of the season.

”They are a lot better this year and it’s a division game,” he
said, ”so this was a good win for us.”

The Bobcats were an NBA-worst 7-59 last season, but entered
Friday night’s game winners of five of six to raise their record to
6-4 this year.

Horford was 13 of 17 from the field, helping the Hawks score 50
points in the paint. Kyle Korver hit 4 of 6 3-pointers and finished
with 16 points. Jeff Teague added 13 points and 12 assists.

”Jeff did a great job of finding me and getting me easy
baskets,” Horford said. ”He kept finding me time after time and
all I had to do was just finish plays.”

Horford was particularly effective in the pick and roll.

”We were hedging on the pick and roll and our backside didn’t
pick him up on his roll, so that is where he hurt us,” Bobcats
coach Mike Dunlap said. ”He’s a power down there.”

Said Drew: ”I saw that (Horford) was in a rhythm and wanted to
really try to ride him as much as I could.”

The Hawks (7-4) led most of the game. The Bobcats got within six
in the fourth quarter, but the rally fizzled from there as Horford
scored the game’s final four points to seal the win.

”I thought my guys did a good job accepting the challenge
against a team that certainly is headed in the right direction,”
Drew said. ”I thought we came out in the very beginning and we set
the tone about how we wanted to play and what we wanted to
do.”

Charlotte was led by Ramon Sessions, who had 22 points. Kemba
Walker added 16 points and nine assists. Walker and Sessions have
scored in double digits every game this season.

Jeffery Taylor, the Bobcats’ second-round pick, set a career
high for the third straight game with 16 points. Michael
Kidd-Gilchrist, another rookie starter, had 11 points and seven
assists.

Dunlap said he’s convinced Taylor is going to be a ”very good
player,” particularly for a team that places so much emphasis on
defense.

”For me, the coach is telling me to be aggressive on offense
and I’m trying to learn and pick my spots and play off the other
guys,” Taylor said. ”Defense has always come pretty easy to me. I
welcome any challenge. It’s fun to play defense. I think it’s fun
to try and stop the other team’s best player.”

The Bobcats committed 15 turnovers leading to 19 Atlanta points
in a sloppy game for both teams. Atlanta turned it over 22 times,
leading to 22 points.

”We didn’t take enough advantage of those,” Dunlap said.

The Hawks built a 57-51 lead at the break behind Horford, who
had 16 first-half points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field.

The Bobcats struggled to find anyone who could guard Horford,
using four different players in an attempt to shut down the
6-foot-10 center. Horford still found ways to score and the Hawks
shot 57.1 percent from the field in the first half.

”I feel like when we play through me a lot of the times it
opens up things for other guys as well,” Horford said.

Smith had an off night, shooting just 4 of 12 from the field,
but contributed a season-high eight assists.

All that mattered to him is the Hawks were able to get a
win.

”Anytime you get a win like this you’re definitely playing
hard,” Smith said. ”We knew what we were getting ourselves into
facing this basketball team. I’ve been watching games on them and I
understood that we had to put our hard hats on to play.”

Smith said the Hawks, who have won five of six after a 2-3
start, are starting to put things together as a team after some
roster turnover this past offseason.

”We’re starting to find ourselves and figure out where our
spots are on the floor,” he said. ”We’re playing very unselfish
and that’s all we can do is keep finding a way to gel and play like
a cohesive unit.”

NOTES: Kidd-Gilchrist had a career-high four blocked shots and
reached double digits in scoring for the eighth time in nine games.
… It was Teague’s second double-double of the season. …
Charlotte dropped to 4-1 in conference play. … The Bobcats visit
Washington on Saturday night, while the Hawks host the Los Angeles
Clippers.