MILWAUKEE -- Gary Payton and Sam Cassell are putting to rest the questions about whether they can coexist in the Milwaukee Bucks' backcourt.
The guards combined for 52 points and 17 assists Sunday to lead the Bucks past the Atlanta Hawks 120-93.
Since Payton joined the lineup following a trade from Seattle, Milwaukee has gone 2-3, with the three defeats coming to playoff contenders Minnesota, Phoenix and Indiana.
Payton and Cassell both play the point guard position, but they've put up good numbers since the trade: Payton, who had 24 points and 10 assists Sunday, is averaging 22.4 points, nine assists and 47 percent shooting in his five games with the Bucks; Cassell, who had 28 points and seven assists before fouling out with 5:20 left, is averaging 21.8 points, seven assists and 53 percent shooting.
"People wondered when we made the trade how Gary and Sam were going to play together," Cassell said. "You've got two guys who understand the game of basketball. He's not a point guard. I'm not a point guard. We both consider ourselves guards. So we just play the game and see what the defense is giving us. Then we go from there."
Payton said he appreciates being given the freedom to run the offense for coach George Karl, who coached Payton when they were with the SuperSonics.
"This is me. I've got to play this way," Payton said. "It was a wide-open tempo and just run and gun. George is giving me the opportunity to do that. It's been real nice."
Milwaukee, which had lost seven of eight to slip into the No. 9 position in the Eastern Conference, also got 19 points from Michael Redd. Tim Thomas added 18 points and seven rebounds for the Bucks, who play 11 of their next 16 on the road.
"If we pass the ball and get 33 assists I don't think we can get beat," Karl said. "I think our key tonight was passing the ball and playing defense in the second half."
Atlanta's Glenn Robinson, playing in his first game in Milwaukee since being traded by the Bucks in the offseason, led Atlanta with 24 points. Robinson missed the first game on Jan. 14 with a sore right elbow.
"I treated it like a regular game," Robinson said. "It's over with, so I was just trying to get down to business."
Shareef Abdur-Rahim added 22 points and 12 rebounds for the Hawks, who have lost four of five.
Jason Terry, who had his first career triple-double on Friday, had 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists for Atlanta.
"I didn't come in trying to outscore them," Atlanta coach Terry Stotts said. "We are a good offensive team, but we needed a better defensive effort."
Milwaukee gained control in the third quarter as Cassell and Payton scored 21 of the Bucks' 32 points.
"We were in the flow," Payton said. "Both of us had the hot hand. If he got open, I got it to him. If I got open, he got it to me."
Dion Glover's jumper cut Milwaukee's lead to 69-60 with 8:11 left in the period before Cassell and Payton took over. The pair scored 15 of the next 17 points for Milwaukee, with Payton scoring nine during the stretch. His 3-pointer, followed by two free throws by Cassell, gave the Bucks an 87-73 lead with 2:33 remaining. Notes: The Bucks matched their season high for points in a regulation game, set in a 120-114 win against Dallas on Feb. 12. ... Atlanta didn't have a steal for the first time since Dec. 21, 1996, a span of 495 games. ... Milwaukee set a franchise record with only four turnovers, one shy of the NBA record. ... The Bucks have won the last nine games against Atlanta in Milwaukee and 14 of 18 overall. ... Atlanta's Theo Ratliff blocked five shots and has at least one in 15 straight games.
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