The Hawks played one of the better teams in the league tonight and came away with a third straight home loss and eighth loss in a row after falling to the Houston Rockets 119-104 on Friday night.
The highlight of the night for Atlanta might have been the celebrities that littered the front row of Philips Arena as the stars on the court, in Hawks jersey anyway, were not shining too bright. At one point in the game — 7:54 of the fourth quarter — the Hawks would be down by 30 points. The stars that shone brightest were wearing red Houston Rockets jerseys on this night.
The Atlanta Hawks were back in front of their home crowd on Friday night following a 119-109 loss in Philadelphia on Wednesday night. This game would be different from that game, however, at least during the first quarter the Hawks coming out of the gate much more aggressive, in particular, team leaders Dennis Schroder and Kent Bazemore, who had eight and nine points during the first quarter, respectively.
Those tallies would be more impressive if the Rockets superstar guard James Harden didn’t end the quarter with a three-pointer over the outstretched hands of Luke Babbitt, who got switched on defense and clearly was out of his element guarding Harden, for his 12th point of the opening quarter. The Rockets had a 36-25 lead after closing the quarter on a 9-4 run.
Babbitt would redeem himself of sorts, hitting consecutive three-point field goals to bring the Hawks with eight points of the Rockets, 39-31, early in the second quarter. The Rockets would answer by outscoring the Hawks 17-5 over the next five minutes of play.
Rockets veterans forward Ryan Anderson and Harden would make three-pointers while center Clint Capela would convert three Harden pick and roll passes into easy dunks. By the end of the first half, Harden would have six assists and only two turnovers to go with his 21 points. The Hawks would be down 18 points, 69-51, at halftime.
The Hawks deficit would be trimmed to 13 points with 5:18 remaining in the third quarter courtesy of spirited offensive play of Taurean Prince, who scored nine early points and five defensive rebounds by center Dewayne Dedmon who only had one rebound (and two points) during the entire first half.
Maybe it was the recent world championship of the hometown Astros giving the Rockets their mojo back but their lead would once again be at 20 points, 90-70, as Harden continued to find open teammates. An open Trevor Ariza three-pointer in front of the Hawks bench- his favorite shot- moved Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer to call a timeout with 2:44 remaining in the third quarter.
In one particular sequence at the end of the quarter, Harden hit a three-pointer while nearly falling out of bounds and then on the next Rockets possession threw a bounce pass Nene that set up a ferocious dunk on rookie John Collins. He was dominating the game and already had a double-double (29 points and 11 assists) with a quarter to play.
Harden’s third quarter numbers: Eight points, five assists without a turnover. Prince scored more during the period (9 points) but the impact was much larger in Harden’s case. After three quarters every Rocket player had scored with the exception of PJ Tucker, who is traditionally more of a tough-nosed defender. Note: Tucker would get his first two points on a layup with 8:50 remaining in the game for all of those keeping score.
Harden would finish with 29 points, 11 assists and only two turnovers, neither of which came during the second half. Harden was 6-11 from three-point range and 8-15 from the field. All five Rockets starters scored in double-figures, with Eric Gordon scoring 20 points in the process.
Luc Mbah a Moute added 20 points off the Rockets bench, the well-traveled veteran forward was 8-11 from the field and made two of his three four three-point attempts.
Following the game, Harden said, “It was a good win for us, we’re building on both ends of the floor and we have to continue to get better.” He added, “We have to get off to better starts.”
The Hawks were led in scoring by Bazemore with 18 points, both Schroder and Taurean Prince added 16 points. Isaiah Taylor continued to play well, playing 24 minutes off the bench and scoring 12 points. Rookie Tyler Dorsey also scored a dozen points in 17 minutes.
Atlanta hosts the Boston Celtics, who are on a seven-game win streak, on Monday.
• At halftime City of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed had a ceremonial number 59 jersey retired in his honor at Philips Arena.
• Miles Plumlee, who came to the Hawks along with Belinelli as part of the Dwight Howard trade, worked out an hour and a half before the game tonight. No word if he is going to be healthy enough to play his first game of the season anytime soon but he did look good while taking perimeter shots and working on post moves with Hawks staffers. Plumlee has been out with a strained right quad
• The Rockets were 6-3 coming into Friday night’s game with five of those victories coming on the road. The Hawks outscored the Rockets 53-50 during the second half of tonight’s game.
• Four castmembers of the Real Housewives of Atlanta cast were in attendance and made an appearance on the jumbotron to applause during a break in the second quarter. The show’s 10th season premiers on Sunday night on Bravo.