AP Photo
December 26, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) The Atlanta Hawks didn't like their defensive performance in the first half, so they decided to double their efforts.

''We made sure they had to earn everything they got,'' center Al Horford said. ''Our team defense was good.''

Paul Millsap scored 22 points, Horford added 19 points and the Hawks won their sixth straight game with a 117-98 victory over the New York Knicks on Saturday night.

Carmelo Anthony, returning after missing one game with a sprained right ankle, finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Knicks. New York has dropped three straight and seven of 11.

The Knicks' big men took a beating as Robin Lopez had to get six stitches above his right eye and rookie Kristaps Porzingis had X-rays - came back negative - on a right finger injury.

Atlanta trailed by 15 midway through the first quarter and was down 14 late in the third before blowing past the Knicks to take a 20-point lead on Thabo Sefolosha's three-point play early in the fourth.

The Hawks took their first lead of the game on Kent Bazemore's 3 at 7:56 of the third.

Mike Scott had a season-high 18 points and Jeff Teague had 17 for Atlanta, which is 1 1/2 games back of the Eastern Conference lead.

Lance Thomas and Derrick Williams each scored 12 for the Knicks.

Disrupting New York's passing lanes on defense and passing the ball crisply around the perimeter on their end, the Hawks outscored the Knicks by 15 in the third. Millsap had 11 of Atlanta's 27 points.

''We couldn't slow them down and stop the penetration,'' New York coach Derek Fisher said. ''So they continued to get in our paint almost the entire second half.''

The Knicks hit 10 of 13 from the field to take a 15-point lead in the first. Anthony scored nine points and had six rebounds in the period, but he took only eight shots the rest of the game.

''I think we just tried to make his catches more difficult (and) further away from the basket,'' Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. ''So his height and size weren't as impactful.''

Atlanta got within three in the second, but New York pushed the lead back to 14 and was shooting nearly 67 percent when Jose Calderon hit a straightaway 3 with 3:49 left before halftime.

New York shot 30 percent in the second half. It had 19 assists in the first half, six in the second.

''We've just got to want it more,'' Anthony said. ''This is a stretch (of games) where we can kind of define ourselves.''

The lead swelled to 17 on Horford's runner with 9 minutes remaining. Atlanta had outscored New York 52-21 since Calderon's trey.

TIP-INS

Knicks: Lopez didn't return after leaving at 6:53 of the third with blood coming from a cut above his right eye. He inadvertently collided with Kyle Korver and his head hit Atlanta guard in the cheek. Lopez, who had nine points and four rebounds, was developing a bruise after the game.

Hawks: Reserve F-C Tiago Splitter played 4 minutes of the first but didn't return because of right leg soreness. ... The Hawks have won five of six in the series.

STILL RIDING THE PINE

Hawks G Tim Hardaway Jr., acquired from New York on draft night for a first-round pick, was on the inactive list for the seventh straight game. Unable to find a role in Budenholzer's rotation, Hardaway has played in just four games this season and spent time in the D-league. Hardaway averaged 10.6 points in his first two seasons with New York.

UP NEXT

Knicks: visit Boston on Sunday.

Hawks: visit Indiana on Monday.

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