ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta Hawks forward Al Horford is getting the same feeling he had while helping Florida win two straight national titles.
“We’ve started to develop that killer instinct,” said Horford, who won two NCAA championships with the Gators in 2006 and ’07. “We definitely had it at Florida, and we’re getting it here.”
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Josh Smith scored 16 points, Marvin Williams added 15 and the Hawks won their sixth straight game with a 96-83 victory over the Utah Jazz on Friday night.
Horford and Joe Johnson each finished with 12 points as Hawks coach Mike Woodson rested his starters in the fourth quarter. Atlanta improved to 12-2 at home, best in the Eastern Conference.
“This shows we are growing as a team,” Horford said after going 6 for 7 from the field and pulling down nine rebounds. “We’re not taking anything for granted. That’s the way we want to do it.”
Utah coach Jerry Sloan pulled his starters after they were outscored 23-6 to begin the third quarter. Though Wesley Matthews later returned in the fourth, he had combined with Deron Williams, Mehmet Okur, Carlos Boozer and Ronnie Brewer to go 8 for 33 from the field when Sloan sat them down.
“We apologize to all the fans,” Williams said. “We played like crap. I played like crap. I think more than anything, their length hurt us. They just took us out of our rhythm. I’m glad we get to play tomorrow (at Charlotte).”
Atlanta’s winning streak is its longest since it ran off seven straight victories March 7-19, 2009.
The Jazz cut the lead to 10 on Andrei Kirilenko’s eight-foot fadeaway in the final minute of the second. Utah, which endured a 5:19 stretch of the third without a field goal and finished the game with 23 turnovers, was never closer than 11 after Okur’s two free throws made it 49-38 early in the quarter.
“Whatever their scheme was (it) worked,” Boozer said. “I think it went from a 10-point game to a 20-point game in, it seems, like seconds.”
Kirilenko led the Jazz with 13 points. Matthews and Eric Maynor each had 11 as Utah dropped to 4-7 on the road.
The Hawks never trailed after Williams’ 3-pointer made it 9-6 early in first quarter.
“They were terrific,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said of the Hawks. “They did everything they had to do. We got caught up in wanting to score. We had eight assists the first half. We couldn’t shoot it fast enough. And far enough. They just kicked our butts from the jump.”
Sloan has no plans to watch any tape of his team’s performance.
“No,” he said. “I saw enough of it.”
Woodson hopes his players maintain momentum when the Hawks visit Chicago on Saturday.
“We’re just playing good basketball,” the Atlanta coach said. “We beat a great team tonight and we did it on the defensive end. I thought the third quarter was probably as good a third quarter as we’ve played since I’ve been here.”
NOTES: Williams, who helped Illinois advance to the 2005 national title game, was planning to meet with his former coach, Bruce Weber, and Illini players who were in town for a game against Georgia on Saturday. … Injured Jazz F Matt Harpring, who is out this season and might retire with multiple injuries, worked as a color commentator for Utah’s television network. Harpring is an Atlanta native and former Georgia Tech standout.