Ten observations: Rockets 118, Hawks 99

102715 ATLANTA: -- A new Hawks logo is painted on the tunnel wall leading out to the court for the first regular season basketball game "home opener" on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015, in Atlanta.  Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

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102715 ATLANTA: -- A new Hawks logo is painted on the tunnel wall leading out to the court for the first regular season basketball game "home opener" on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Ten observations from watching Hawks at Rockets on TV. . . .

  1. Chris Paul (hamstring) sat out for the Rockets but it hardly mattered. Their machine kept humming with James Harden as triple-double terror, Clint Capela as rim attacker and pretty much everyone else as shot-makers. The Rockets set a franchise mark with their 60th victory. The Hawks were over-matched. The game essentially was over when the Rockets led by 21 points 7:50 before halftime. Later in the period the advantage swelled to 57-33, at which point Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer called his fourth timeout, still four-plus minutes before halftime.
  2. Dennis Schroder (ankle) sat out for the Hawks but that also hardly mattered. What the Hawks needed were more defensive-minded, athletic wings on the floor so they could match Houston's pace and at least have a chance of slowing them. The Hawks are short on those because of injuries so they sent out lineups with two bigs. The Hawks were too slow-footed to keep up.
  3. The Rockets led 69-45 at halftime with Harden scoring just five points. I'm not saying the Hawks played great defense in the first half. I am saying that better defense would have made little difference because the Rockets were making pretty much every open shot — and it's hard for even good defensive teams to prevent them from getting those.
  4. Harden didn't have to go to his iso, shot-creating mode much because his teammates were making everything. The Rockets made 14 of 28 3-point attempts in the first half. P.J. Tucker was 4-for-5, Trevor Ariza 4-for-7, Joe Johnson 2-for-3, Eric Gordon 2-for-4 and Gerald Green 2-for-5. "They have a monstrous team that is geared toward playing fast," Hawks assistant Darvin Ham told Andre Aldridge of Fox Sports Southeast at halftime.
  5. The Rockets buried the Hawks under an early barrage of 3-pointers, most of them clean looks off quick ball movement and especially in transition. Ariza made four of five 3-point tries in the first quarter. In the second quarter Harden started working the pick-and-roll with Capela and that opened the floor even more.
  6. The only question after halftime was whether the Hawks would show more grit. They did so while trimming a 25-point lead to 14 in the third quarter. But the Hawks couldn't get closer as Harden started looking to score . He had 13 points in the third period and the Rockets led 94-74 going into the fourth.
  7. Isaiah Taylor (26 points on 17 shots), Taurean Prince (28 on 18 shots) and Mike Muscala (13 points on 10 shots) were the only Hawks to produce much offense before the white flag came out. Taylor's points were a career-high and Prince broke 20 points for the eighth time in his past 14 games.
  8. Taylor moved to Houston during high school and told Aldridge that the city "feels like home." Taylor also played four games with the Rockets last season. It's probably a safe bet that those factors contributed to Taylor's aggressive play. He scored at all levels for nine of the Hawks' first 11 points: 3-pointer, pull-up jumper, tear drop over Capela in the middle of the paint, another mid-range jumper.quarter.
  9. Probably the best news for the Hawks was John Collins making the start after re-injuring his left ankle at Golden State on Friday. Collins doesn't create offense off the dribble so he didn't get involved in this kind of game. But Collins (10 rebounds in 25 minutes) did help the Hawks win on the board.
  10. Damion Lee started out with the primary assignment on Harden (18 points on 15 shots, 15 assists, 10 rebounds). Prince started on Eric Gordon before later taking a turn on Harden. Taylor gave it a shot in the second quarter. Help was readily available for Harden but the challenge is that he knows how to exploit it. The Hawks crowded the paint on screens or Harden's solo probing, so he was content to zip pinpoint passes that his teammates could dunk or catch-and-shoot.