Hawks coach calls Dwight Howard 'elite' after season-opening win

ATLANTA -- Paul Millsap scored 28 points, and newcomer Dwight Howard scored a double-double to lead the Atlanta Hawks to a 114-99 victory over the Washington Wizards on Thursday at Philips Arena. 

Howard finished with 11 points and 19 total rebounds in his first regular season game in a Hawks jersey since signing with the team during free agency. He had three blocks and one steal.

"Dwight has established himself as an elite player," head coach Mike Budenholzer said. "His work and his commitment to everything we're doing, very pleased with it. It makes a difference."

Budenholzer said Howard's transition into their offensive system is not complete, but Howard will continue to work on it.

"I'm pleased with where he is, he's going to get better...I think he's very comfortable with it," Budenholzer said.

Tim Hardaway Jr. came off the Hawks' bench and scored 21 points and made three three-pointers to help the Hawks go on a late run to secure the win. The Hawks bench scored 49 points.

Up 81-80 going into the fourth, the Hawks went on a 24-6 run in the opening eight minutes, and Hardaway Jr. scored 12 of those points, including two threes. Thabo Sefolosha contributed during the run and finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.

Head coach Mike Budenholzer was pleased with his defense's ability late to keep the offensive run going while stopping the Wizards. Mike Muscala had two blocks in the final four minutes, and the team finished with seven.

"I thought the bench, [Hardaway Jr. and Thabo Sefolosha] on the wings were magnificent," Budenholzer said. "It was great to see how they contributed."

"Even I knew they were playing pretty descent, there would have been a ton of arms pulling me back if I tried to pull them out," he added.

Markieff Morris scored a team-high 22 points for the Wizards.

The Hawks shot 50 percent from the floor and made 12 threes on 26 attempts.

Thursday's win was Budenholzer's first victory in a season-opener as a head coach. It was the Hawks' first win in the first game of the regular season since 2011.

PHOTOS | Atlanta Hawks season opener


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