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Hawks hang on to beat Jazz

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Updated 12 months ago on
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SALT LAKE CITY — Efficient offense is usually Atlanta’s most proven weapon when taking down another NBA team this season.

The Hawks know where to find shots and know where to make shots with a high degree of precision. They are just one of two NBA teams who rank among the top 10 in field goal percentage, 3-point field goal percentage and free throw percentage.

Against the Utah Jazz, however, the Hawks were forced to veer off script and turn to their defense to hold off a determined Jazz team down the stretch.

The Hawks forced Utah to shoot just 32-of-86 (37.2 percent) from the field and commit 18 turnovers in a 98-92 victory over the Jazz on Friday night. It helped offset a night where Atlanta shot just 33-of-81 (40.7 percent) from the field.

“The defense was great,” Hawks center Al Horford said. “I felt like we did a good job. We set the tone. We didn’t have our best offensive shooting performance, but our defense carried us through tonight.”

Guard Jeff Teague led the charge on the other end, scoring 25 points to help the Hawks (24-8) win their third straight game. Forward Paul Millsap added 15 points and 11 rebounds and Horford chipped in 13 points to help Atlanta also win their sixth consecutive game over a Western Conference opponent.

Forward Gordon Hayward scored 18 points and Dante Exum added 13 points off the bench to lead the Jazz. Utah (11-22) was swept in the season series with Atlanta for a second consecutive season.

Utah was doomed, in part, by a poor first half start where it was held without a field goal for a 6 1/2 minute stretch in the first quarter alone.

“We did a lot better in the second half,” Hayward said. “It’s another game — we’ve had many of these before — where we get down in a hole, we fight back, we make it interesting and we fall short.”

The Jazz put together a 12-1 run to make it close late in the fourth quarter. Hayward drilled a 3-pointer and drove for a layup on back-to-back possessions to help Utah climb within four at 91-87 with 3:38 remaining.

But Carroll and Teague then drilled back-to-back jumpers and it put the Hawks ahead 95-87 less than a minute later.

“Our focus was to just finish the game out,” Horford said. “We had been playing so well all game, so we just wanted to come out of here with a win.”

The Hawks quickly took flight on offense in the first quarter. Forward DeMarre Carroll converted a 3-point play and drove for a layup to ignite a run of six baskets on six straight possessions. By the time guard Kyle Korver capped the spurt with a jumper, the Hawks held a 17-6 lead.

Atlanta played stout defense on Utah to dig a bigger hole for the Jazz. Utah did not make a basket for more than six minutes in the first quarter. The Hawks led by as many as 19 points in that stretch, going up 28-9 on Millsap’s 3-pointer with 3:41 left in the quarter.

“We just acted defensively,” Teague said. “Getting deflections. Getting steals. It led to some easy offensive points for us.”

Exum drained a 3-pointer with 2:04 left in the quarter to break the Jazz drought. It marked the start of a 19-3 run that got Utah back into the game early in the second quarter. Guard Ian Clark culminated the lengthy spurt with a 3-pointer to cut Atlanta’s lead to 31-28.

The Jazz could draw no closer because the Hawks never cooled down enough on offense. After Hayward hit a 3-pointer to cut Atlanta’s lead to 46-42, the Hawks scored on their final five possessions of the half — culminating in three unanswered baskets from Teague — and took a 57-45 lead into the locker room.

Atlanta maintained a double-digit lead throughout the third quarter. The Hawks boosted their lead to 76-56 after Teague and Millsap combined to hit three free throws following a shooting foul and technical foul on forward Joe Ingles.

“You have to compete as a group,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “It doesn’t work if one guy is competing, another guy is competing, three of them are competing. It’s got to be all five guys against a team of this caliber.”

NOTES: Atlanta F Paul Millsap is the only NBA player averaging at least 16.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals this season. Before facing Utah, he averaged 16.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.0 steals. He finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and zero steals. … Jazz G Rodney Hood did not dress because of a sore left heel. His replacement in the starting lineup, Patrick Christopher, suffered a dislocated right kneecap and is expected to miss six-to-eight weeks. … The Hawks rank third in the NBA in assists with 25.6 per game. They are recording assists on 67.8 percent of their made baskets, which is the best mark in the league. Atlanta had 24 assists against the Jazz. … Utah’s bench scored a season-high 47 points and outscored the Hawks’ second unit 47-25.

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