ATLANTA — The Atlanta Hawks were on the verge of losing another close one.
Paul Millsap wasn't about to let it happen.
Millsap scored 23 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and knocked down a running one-hander with 15.7 seconds remaining that helped the Hawks hold off the Sacramento Kings 103-97 Wednesday night.
Atlanta had lost four of five — including three in a row, the last two by a total of three points.
The frustration was evident as a seemingly comfortable lead faded away in the closing minutes. Finally, Millsap stepped up to clinch it for the Hawks, driving past Rudy Gay to sink a floater in the lane.
"It wasn't pretty. It was pretty ugly," Millsap said. "But we were able to focus and settle down, get some good looks, and finish the game off."
Atlanta was up 99-88 with 2:49 remaining after Lamar Patterson cut to the hoop for a layup off an extra pass from Thabo Sefolosha. The Kings responded by scoring the next nine points, the last of them on a 3-pointer by Darren Collison with 36 seconds to go.
The Hawks missed three straight shots and turned it over twice during Sacramento's spurt, the offense bogging down as they attempted to bleed the clock. The Kings needed one more stop but couldn't get it.
After Millsap's shot fell in, he walked off the court during a timeout with a defiant scowl, slapping hands with his teammates.
"I was a little ticked off," Millsap said, managing a smile afterward. "It's been a long few weeks these past three games, coming down to the wire and not being able to pull them off. It was an emotional moment."
Sacramento hurt itself with 20 turnovers.
"We let them play to their strength," said DeMarcus Cousins, who scored 24 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. "They play well off turnovers and bad shots, and we took some bad shots."
Atlanta closed the first half on an 11-0 run, going to the break with a 62-52 lead. Millsap scored six points and the Hawks took advantage of some sloppy play by Rajon Rondo, who threw the ball away four times in less than 90 seconds.
But Atlanta couldn't put the Kings away, its lead never more than 11 points. Despite the turnovers, Rondo managed a triple-double with 12 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
Dennis Schroder, starting at point guard in place of injured Jeff Teague, had 22 points for the Hawks. Atlanta also played without starting small forward Kent Bazemore.
Both players sat out with sprained ankles.
RUNNING THE COURT
Atlanta's Al Horford showed off some of the skills that make him such a unique NBA center during a sequence in the final minute of the opening quarter.
Horford swatted away a shot by Cousins and took off the other way. Shelvin Mack grabbed the loose ball, spotted Horford sprinting down the court, and fed him a pass for a thunderous dunk.
Willie Cauley-Stein played 14 minutes after striking his head in the second half of Sunday's game against Toronto. The rookie had five rebounds but failed to score.
Cauley-Stein was initially listed in the starting lineup, but Quincy Acy began the game instead. The Kings said that was simply a mix-up and that Acy was starting all along.
Acy didn't attempt a shot and had just one rebound in nearly 16 minutes.
Kings: Had a three-game winning streak snapped. ... Gay scored 14 points, and Kosta Koufos chipped in with 13 off the bench. ... Sacramento outrebounded the Hawks 52-45.
Hawks: Atlanta has won 15 straight games over the Kings, including nine in a row at Philips Arena. The Kings' most recent victory in the series was Feb. 20, 2008. Sacramento's last win in Atlanta was nearly a decade ago on March 3, 2006. ... Millsap was a one-man show on the boards. None of his teammates managed more than six rebounds.
Kings: Head to Miami to take on the Heat in the second of a five-game road trip Thursday.
Hawks: Travel to Cleveland to face LeBron James and the Cavaliers on Saturday.
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