Atlanta centre Al Horford made sure the Hawks measured up on Saturday, scoring 33 points in a 120-105 victory that ended the Chicago Bulls’ winning streak at six games.
Horford also pulled down 10 rebounds, handed out six assists and blocked four shots as Atlanta led throughout.
“We understood that this was a good measuring-stick game for us,” Horford said. “We knew that the effort had to be there more than ever. We’ve been playing hard, but we knew we had to play harder. From the beginning of the game, we did that.”
The Hawks, who improved to 23-15, had six players shoot in double figures and forced 22 turnovers from the Bulls, who at 22-13 are clinging to the number two spot in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland.
Horford said the Hawks will need to produce more of the same to move up.
“We need to continue to do what we did today, moving the ball and hustling on defense consistently,” Horford said. “As a team, I feel that we sometimes have lapses in those areas.”
Horford set the tone with 11 first-quarter points. He made 15 of 21 shots and his points total was one short of his career high.
“Al Horford was very vintage,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Everyone kind of followed his lead.”
The Bulls had 27 points and 10 rebounds from guard Jimmy Butler and 24 points form Nikola Mirotic, but rarely matched the Hawks’ intensity.
“We dug ourselves a big hole obviously early in the game,” Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg said. “They had way more energy coming out of the gate than we did.”
Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul scored 25 points, handed out seven assists and grabbed seven rebounds in a 97-83 victory over short-handed Charlotte — and said it’s defensive commitment that has fuelled the team’s eight-game winning streak.
The Clippers blocked nine Hornets shots — a rejection by Luc Mbah a Moute early in the first quarter showing Charlotte what they were in for.