ATLANTA (AP) — The Hawks are discovering that strong defense makes winning possible, even against quality opponents, after Al Horford's season-ending injury.
Kyle Korver scored 20 points, including four free throws in the final 16 seconds, and Atlanta fought off Houston's late comeback to beat the Rockets 83-80 on Friday night.
Paul Millsap also had 20 points for Atlanta, which earned its second straight impressive home win following a victory over Indiana on Wednesday night. The two victories were important following a three-game losing streak and Horford's torn right pectoral muscle in late December.
"It's a real good win for us because it really shows we played some good teams and we actually played some good defense," Millsap said. "It started with the defense and if we continue to keep that up, we'll be fine."
James Harden led the Rockets with 25 points. Dwight Howard had 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Houston coach Kevin McHale said his players "were just stuck in the mud offensively."
Aaron Brooks had 13 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, and Jeremy Lin added 11 for Houston.
"I think they took the game in the second half with how hard they played on defense," Lin said.
The Hawks overcame Houston's 11-0 run to start the game. The Rockets then battled back from an eight-point deficit with another 11-0 run to regain the lead at 76-73. Korver's 3-pointer tied the game. Following a basket by Harden, DeMarre Carroll's 3-pointer gave Atlanta a 79-78 lead. The Hawks didn't trail again.
"I think the group is really starting to trust each other defensively," Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "The competitiveness that they're putting out there, it starts on the defensive end of the court. ... It's just good to see that trust being built up."
The strong defensive effort came against one of the highest-scoring teams in the NBA. Entering the game, the Rockets ranked third in the league with their average of 105.8 points.
Harden, who had seven assists and five turnovers, was unable to extend his streak of three straight games with at least 37 points.
"Guys just couldn't get into a rhythm," he said. "Guys were just sluggish tonight, including myself."
It was a disappointing start to Houston's four-game road trip.