CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Al Horford scored 24 points and the Atlanta Hawks defeated Charlotte 103-94 to hand Bobcats coach Steve Clifford a loss in his first game back since undergoing a heart procedure.
Clifford missed Charlotte’s game last Friday night against the New York Knicks after having two stents placed in his heart.
The Hawks trailed by eight at halftime but outscored the Bobcats 34-16 in the third quarter behind 72 percent shooting to take control of the game. Horford had 13 points in the period to help turn the tide for the Hawks (4-3).
Jeff Teague had 14 points and 12 assists, while Cartier Martin chipped in with 16 points.
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 back from an ankle injury.
The Bobcats led 54-46 at the break behind a strong first half from Kidd-Gilchrist. But the former No. 2 overall pick completely disappeared in the second half.
That’s when Horford began to heat up, knocking down three jumpers from near the top of the key to spark the Hawks. Martin added a pair of 3-pointers during one 11-0 stretch to push the lead to 14.
Jefferson, the Bobcats’ three-year, $41 million free-agent pickup, returned to the starting lineup after missing the last five games and struggled early. He looked slow and rusty and was a non-factor in the opening half with no points and one rebound in 10 minutes.
The Bobcats seemed to struggle to get into a flow with Jefferson in the game.
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 either, 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.
“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.”
Clifford thinks it’s something he’ll be able to get through.
“I don’t think it’ll be that hard, I’ve just got to be smart,” Clifford said. “I don’t want to get sick again. I have a great staff, so that makes it easier.”