ATLANTA -- Pounding his chest, tugging his jersey and literally carrying the Atlanta Hawks on his back, Isaiah Rider seems worth all the trouble he caused earlier in the season.
Rider equaled his season high with 32 points and took control in the second half, pulling the Hawks from a 15-point deficit to a 110-100 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night.
"I don't care what they say about Isaiah Rider," said Sacramento's Nick Anderson. "I don't care if he never comes to practice. If he continues to play like that, they're going to win a lot of games."
Rider has been on his best behavior since a one-game suspension Nov. 16 for missing practice, averaging 23.3 points in the last eight games.
He had 13 points in a 21-8 run to close the third quarter, giving the Hawks an 84-83 lead heading to the final period when he converted a three-point play with 23.7 seconds remaining.
"I've never been shy," said Rider, who hit 13-of-30 from the field, dished out six assists and grabbed four rebounds. "That's why I'm one of the better players in this league."
After the Kings scored the first two baskets of the fourth quarter, Rider hit a 3-pointer to ignite a 10-0 run. Finally, he came up with a steal in the final minute to thwart any hope of a comeback by Sacramento, the second straight division leader to fall to the Hawks.
"We started out really sluggish," Rider said. "I take some of the blame for that. I came out and kind of flat-lined it. ... But I told myself there was a lot of time left. When I take over, good things happen."
Atlanta beat Central-leading Toronto 107-89 on Tuesday and has a three-game winning streak.
Jim Jackson added 26 points for the Hawks, while Dikembe Mutombo had 19 points, 18 rebounds and two blocks. Chris Webber led the Kings with 26 points.
Atlanta underwent a makeover prior to this season, trading away Steve Smith and Mookie Blaylock while promising a more exciting style of play. But it was the defense which turned the tide against the Kings, one of the league's most creative teams.
Sacramento scored 42 points in the first quarter, hitting 19-of-24 shots from the field while building a 10-point lead. The Kings increased the margin to 59-44 in the second quarter before settling for a 67-58 lead at the break.
In the second half, however, the Kings shot only 25 percent from the field -- 12-of-48.
"It's all about defense," Mutombo said. "The only thing that was keeping them in the game was their running game. When we shut down their running game, they didn't have any offense. All they could do was pick and roll."
Rider added, "You can't win in this league with all offense. You've got to play defense at some point in time. But they only play defense when they want to."
Jason Williams wowed the Philips Arena crowd with several dazzling plays, including a behind-the-back bounce pass to Vlade Divac that drew a foul under the basket.
Williams had 18 points and 12 assists but shot only 7-of-20 from the field after a quick start.
"That was not the hottest we've ever been" Webber said, "but that was as cold as we've ever been in the second half. You have to credit their defense."
Notes: The Hawks have won eight in a row over the Kings. They also have an 11-game home winning streak against Sacramento that began in 1988. ... Injured Hawks forward LaPhonso Ellis has a new son: Walter Andrew Ellis. The 7-pound, 7-ounce boy was born Monday night. ... Showing they are now one of the league's marquee teams, Sacramento attracted a weeknight crowd of 14,537 -- second-largest of the season at the Hawks' new arena. ... The Kings shot 101 times from the field.