NBA: Atlanta Hawks soaring into new season

Atlanta Hawks forward Kent Bazemore (24) is defended by Sacramento Kings forward Matt Barnes (22) during the second half at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Kings 106-95.
Atlanta Hawks forward Kent Bazemore (24) is defended by Sacramento Kings forward Matt Barnes (22) during the second half at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Kings 106-95.PHOTO: USA TODAY SPORTS / DALE ZANINE

Washington (AFP) - The Atlanta Hawks are off to their best start in six National Basketball Association seasons after a 106-95 victory over the Sacramento Kings lifted them to 3-0 in the fledgling campaign.

It has now been a decade since the Kings won a game in Atlanta, although the Hawks gave them hope when they allowed the visitors to score 37 points in the third quarter.

"Coach really challenged us after that," Kyle Korver said of Mike Budenholzer's call for the Hawks to step up their defence.

"So far this season, we've been a pretty good defensive team and we know that's got to be one of the strengths of our team to play at a high level.

"We were challenged and we responded in that fourth quarter," Korver added of the Hawks' improved effort in limiting the Kings to 14 points in the fourth quarter.

The Kings were within 90-88 in the final period before the Hawks ran off eight straight points to regain control.

Veteran centre Dwight Howard blocked four shots, including a key rejection in the final period.

Howard, signed as a free agent prior to the season, scored 18 points despite going just 8-for-20 from the foul line and grabbed 11 rebounds.

Korver and Germany's Dennis Schroder scored 17 points apiece for the Hawks and Paul Millsap contributed 13 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists.

Thabo Sefolosha had three of his four steals in the fourth quarter and Kent Bazemore had three steals.

Rudy Gay scored 22 points for the Kings. DeMarcus Cousins, who came in averaging 30 points, scored 14 and pulled down 11 rebounds.

Fifty-four fouls were called in the bruising encounter, 30 of them against the Kings. Atlanta were 29 of 47 from the free throw line and the Kings made 13 of 19 foul shots.