That and Al Horford.
Horford had 13 of his 24 points in the third quarter as the Hawks outscored Charlotte 34-16 en route to a 103-94 win Monday night in Bobcats coach Steve Clifford’s first game back after having two stents placed in his heart.
“Energy, by far,” Horford said of the difference in the third quarter. “Especially on the defensive end. And we stopped fouling so much. At the beginning of the game we were really getting some cheap fouls. So, we did a better job defending them.”
The Hawks trailed by eight at halftime but shot 72 percent from the floor in the third quarter; the Bobcats managed just 33 percent.
Jeff Teague, who finished with 14 points and 12 assists, was pivotal during that stretch and Clifford said the Bobcats simply couldn’t find anyone to guard him.
“We came in the third quarter with absolutely no energy, and that was obviously the difference in the game,” Clifford said.
Cartier Martin scored 16 points off the bench, including a pair of 3-pointers to help push the lead to 14.
Horford finished 9-of-15 from the field. Martin was 5-of-7.
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer called it a good road win.
“I think another step forward for our defense,” Budenholzer said. “I think a great job by our bench to come in and give us a boost. We had some foul trouble early and I think some guys just got picked up (Monday) by their teammates and by their bench.”
Atlanta, which came in ranked seventh in the NBA in scoring, has reached at least 100 points in all seven games.
Josh McRoberts led the Bobcats (3-4) with 19 points and seven assists. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 16 points, but none in the second half.
Al Jefferson had 10 points and seven rebounds in his first game since Oct. 30.
But it’s clear the Bobcats still haven’t adjusted to playing with their $41 million free-agent pickup. Jefferson looked slow and rusty and was a non-factor in the opening half with no points and one rebound in 10 minutes. Meanwhile, the offense was out of sync.
McRoberts said it will take time for everyone to get used to playing with Jefferson.
“It’s just a different style of play playing through Al,” McRoberts said. “You try to work through growing pains. ... There are probably guys in here who have never played with a low-post scorer in their entire careers, whether college or NBA. So it’s definitely a change having one of the best low-post players in the world down there in the block. We have to adjust and play through him.”
Jefferson feels bad knowing that it hasn’t been easy for his teammates to get used to his style of play with him being in and out of the lineup.
He missed most of the preseason, too, with a sprained ankle.
“We’ve all got to get on the same page,” Jefferson said.
Said Clifford: “He’s not in a great shape yet, and he played more minutes than I thought he would simply because we are better when he’s on the floor.”
The Bobcats certainly had their chance to erase a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter after the Hawks went cold from the field. But Charlotte couldn’t get anything to fall, with McRoberts missing a pair of layups and leading scorers Gerald Henderson and Kemba Walker unable to get going.
As for Clifford, he said he plans to obey doctors’ orders and not overdue it in his return to coaching. Clifford missed Charlotte’s game last Friday night against the New York Knicks after having two stents placed in his heart.
“I’m doing exactly what they tell me to do,” Clifford said before the game. “I’m going to do a little bit less during the work day, come in just when the team is here. I’m going to work out of the house more, sleep in for a couple of weeks and I think I’ll be good. I’ll be getting checked regularly. I think it’ll be fine.”
NOTES: Kyle Korver has made at least one 3-pointer in 80 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in NBA history behind Dana Barros. ... The Hawks have at least 24 assists in all seven games this season. They are first in the NBA in assists per game. ... The Bobcats have lost two in a row at home after winning five straight.