Hawks waste 10-point fourth-quarter lead in loss to Rockets

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Ahead of Friday’s matchup against the Rockets in Houston, Hawks coach Nate McMillan warned that his team should respect the game of basketball. The Hawks did not and the basketball gods made them pay with a 128-122 loss to the Rockets, who rank 15th in the Western Conference.

Trae Young scored 44 for the Hawks.

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Here are five observations on the game:

1. The Hawks headed into the fourth quarter trying to nurse a 10-point lead. The Rockets, coming off of four days of rest, though, stormed back to outscore the Hawks 34-18 in the fourth.

The Hawks failed to limit the Rockets second-chance opportunities and could not capitalize on their own opportunities in the final 12 minutes. The Hawks went 4-of-14 from the floor after shooting over 50% in the first three quarters.

The Hawks had some strong offense from their two star guards but with the Rockets scrapping a little harder, that wasn’t enough.

“Executing, they wanted it more,” McMillan said. “That’s what it comes down to. We knew this team was number one in offensive rebounding. And you have to turn when that shot goes up, turn and check them in. And because they sent three, four guys to the glass, every opportunity and we didn’t turn. We just basically turned, followed the ball. They wanted it more.”

2. The Hawks never quite set the tone defensively, giving up 30-plus points in three of the four quarters. The Hawks allowed the Rockets to score 38 points in the first, 31 points in the second and 34 points in the fourth.

The Rockets’ 38 points in the first period were the most points the Hawks have given up in an opening quarter this season.

“It started in the first quarter,” McMillan said. “We never established defense. I thought in the third quarter, we came out and got some stops, got back into the game and was able to take the lead. But for three quarters, we didn’t play defense. And, you know, you got to respect this game. And when you respect the game, you want to play the game the right way.”

3. The Hawks really missed the presence of Clint Capela early. He was out of the lineup due to dental pain. The Hawks left the paint wide open, giving the Rockets ample space to get shots inside the paint. The Hawks gave up 10 points in the paint in the first six minutes of action, with the Rockets powering their offense with dunks from Jalen Green, KJ Martin and Kevin Porter.

The Rockets set the tone early going on a 12-4 run on 7-of-11 shooting and two early 3-pointers.

The Hawks had just three rebounds in the first quarter and allowed the Rockets to score nine second-chance points.

Though the Hawks gained control of the game in the second and third quarters, their lack of rebounding caught up with them in the final frame. The Rockets ended the night with 22 offensive rebounds, while Hawks pulled down a total of 28.

“I think it’s an effort thing,” Hawks guard Dejounte Murray said. “We were aware that they like to rebound you know, shots go up and they’re all crashing. And we didn’t execute the game plan. You know, Clint was out, so it’s next man up. There’s no excuses in the NBA. If he was here it would have been great, but he wasn’t.”

4. The Hawks managed to settle into the game toward the end of the first quarter and the second unit pounced on the momentum. Murray scored 19 points in the second quarter, which got the Hawks out to a 72-69 lead.

It’s the second straight game that the Hawks have scored 72 points in the first half.

Murray closed in on his career-high in points by the end of the third and ended the night with a career-best 39 points. He shot 14-of-24 in the field and knocked down a career-high eight 3-pointers.

Of course, the team’s loss soured the achievement and Murray put the brunt of the blame on his own shoulders.

“We had control of the game. You know, starting with me and Trae, we take full accountability. I take accountability. This game was on us, you know, it was immature and that’s really what it is,” Murray said.

5. The Hawks were able to score 31 points off the 22 turnovers they forced. Murray, John Collins, Onyeka Okongwu and AJ Griffin each had two steals apiece.

Rockets 128, Hawks 122

Stat to know

Trae Young and Dejounte Murray are the first pair of Hawks teammates to net 30-plus points in the same game since March 22, 2022 at the Knicks when Young scored 45 and Bogdan Bogdanovic had 32.

Quotable

“We made it a shootout. We just made it a shootout. We had some guys that were able to knock down some shots, but we played right into the style of play that they can be successful with.” -- Nate McMillan on the lack of ball movement in the fourth quarter.

Up next

The Hawks return to State Farm Arena to host the Heat on Sunday evening.