Al Horford and Atlanta Hawks make statement against Bulls

Atlanta topped Chicago 93-86 to score a major victory over a close Eastern Conference opponent.
Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks shoots over Pau Gasol of the Chicago Bulls during Atlanta's NBA win on Monday night. Kevin C Cox / Getty Images / AFP / December 15, 2014
Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks shoots over Pau Gasol of the Chicago Bulls during Atlanta's NBA win on Monday night. Kevin C Cox / Getty Images / AFP / December 15, 2014

The Atlanta Hawks have shown they can beat up on the NBA’s weaker teams.

This time, they took down one with a more impressive resume.

Al Horford scored 21 points, including a huge jumper with just under a minute remaining, and the streaking Hawks won for the 10th time in 11 games with a 93-86 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Monday night.

Atlanta had a nine-game winning streak – their longest since 1997 – until Orlando hit a buzzer-beating shot Saturday night for a 100-99 victory.

But that run, as impressive as it was, came with a very large asterisk: None of the teams the Hawks beat had a winning record.

That wasn’t the case with the Bulls, who came in with three straight wins and just behind Atlanta in the Eastern Conference standings.

“Each night we want to have the same expectations, the same standards, no matter who we’re playing,” Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said. “But it’s always good to be tested by some of the teams we’re going to be playing now.”

The Hawks led most of the way, yet never by more than 10 points. After Taj Gibson’s dunk with 1:13 remaining brought the Bulls to 87-84, Horford got loose for a 19-footer on the wing and knocked it down.

“It was about time,” Horford said with a smile. “I missed a few of them around the elbow area that I normally make. They kept going in and out, in and out. Percentages, I guess. I was due to hit one. It was a big shot for us.”

Pau Gasol put back his own miss to make it 89-86 with 23.7 seconds left, giving the Bulls one more chance. Jimmy Butler made a huge defensive play, leaping high in the air to stuff an attempted crosscourt pass from Kyle Korver, who had a couple of teammates wide open near the basket. The Atlanta player recovered from his miscue, getting his hands on the ball, too, as both players tumbled to the court to force a jump ball.

Even though Butler won the tip, Paul Millsap swooped in to snatch the ball away for Atlanta.

The Hawks sealed the victory at the foul line, ending Chicago’s three-game winning streak. The Bulls had won six straight over the Hawks, including a sweep of all four games last season.

Millsap added 17 points for Atlanta.

Butler led Chicago with 22 and Gibson added 15, but Derrick Rose was held to 14 points on 6-of-21 shooting. The Hawks focused on keeping the Bulls star from penetrating the lane, forcing him to settle for jumpers.

It wasn’t his night.

“Shots I normally hit, tonight they were flat,” Rose said. “I just didn’t have any lift to them. I guarantee you next game that won’t happen.”

AROUND THE LEAGE

Cavaliers 97 (14-9), Hornets 88 (6-18)

LeBron James scored 27 points with 13 assists, and Kevin Love added 22 points and 18 rebounds, as the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Charlotte Hornets 97-88 on Monday.

The Cavaliers jumped to a 21-0 lead, but the Hornets regrouped and got within two points early in the third quarter before the Cavaliers pulled away.

The Cavaliers ended the third on a 21-9 run. Kyrie Irving scored 16 points for the Cavaliers, who were coming off consecutive road losses to Oklahoma City and New Orleans after winning eight in a row.

Kemba Walker led Charlotte with 24 points while Al Jefferson added 14.

Celtics 105 (8-14), 76ers 87 (2-22)

Kelly Olynyk scored a career-high 30 points to lead the Celtics to a victory over Philadelphia.

Avery Bradley had 15 points, and Brandon Bass and Jeff Green added 14 apiece for Boston, which snapped a three-game skid.

Rookie Nerlens Noel had a career-high 19 points for the 76ers, who dropped to 0-13 at home this season. Philadelphia moved closer to the NBA mark for worst home start to a season, set in the 1993/94 season when the Mavericks began 0-19.

Raptors 95 (19-6), Magic 82 (10-17)

Lou Williams scored 18 points and Kyle Lowry had 17 as the Raptors won their 10th straight game over the Magic.

Amir Johnson scored 11 points and Patrick Patterson had 10 for the Raptors, who improved to 11-1 this season against opponents with losing records. This was Toronto’s third of six straight games against teams below .500.

Tobias Harris scored 18 points, Ben Gordon had 16, Nikola Vucevic had 13 and Victor Oladipo 12 for the Magic, who have not won in Toronto since March 26, 2012.

Pacers 110 (8-17), Lakers 91 (8-17)

Rodney Stuckey scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead Indiana over the Lakers 110-91.

Los Angeles shot 33 per cent from the floor and trailed by 39 points during the game.

CJ Miles scored 20, David West and CJ Watson each scored 12, and Donald Sloan scored 17 points for Indiana. Kobe Bryant led the Lakers in scoring with 21 points, shooting 8-of-26 from the floor.

Nick Young scored 18 points and Carlos Boozer recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. The Pacers bench outscored the Lakers bench 52-46.

Bucks 96 (13-12), Suns 94 (12-14)

Khris Middleton hit a three-pointer at the buzzer, giving Milwaukee a win over Phoenix.

Middleton’s shot bounced off the backboard and curled into the net for the game winner. It was the biggest three points of the 14 he scored on the night. The Bucks trailed 94-93 after Markieff Morris knocked down a 14-foot jumper from inside the free-throw line with 3.9 seconds left.

Morris led the Suns with 25 points, including two buckets in the last 24 seconds of a back-and-forth final five minutes.

Brandon Knight dropped in a running jump shot with 7.2 seconds left, part of his team-high 20 points for the Bucks.

Isaiah Thomas scored 11 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter.

Trail Blazers 108 (19-6), Spurs 95 (17-8)

Damian Lillard had 23 points and a career-high 10 rebounds as Portland downed short-handed San Antonio.

LaMarcus Aldridge added 23 points and 14 rebounds for the Blazers, who have won seven of their last nine games. But starting centre Robin Lopez injured his right hand early in the second half and did not return.

Kawhi Leonard had 21 points and nine rebounds for the Spurs, who had just 10 players available. Tim Duncan, who had 15 points and nine rebounds in a 99-91 victory the night before, was given the night off.

Clippers 113 (17-7), Pistons 99 (5-20)

Blake Griffin scored 18 points and DeAndre Jordan had 16 points and 15 rebounds, as Los Angeles breezed over Detroit.

Chris Paul had 11 points and eight assists. He committed one turnover in 24 minutes, after getting six in each of his previous two games. Paul finished last season with a league-best 4.57 assist-to-turnover ratio. Jodie Meeks had 20 points for Detroit.

JJ Redick scored 14 points, and his streak of 29 games with a three-pointer ended one game shy of teammate Matt Barnes’ franchise record.

Andre Drummond added 18 points and 13 rebounds for the Pistons, who were coming off road wins against Phoenix and Sacramento after losing 13 straight.

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Published: December 16, 2014 04:00 AM

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