Houston—Rockets coach Rick Adelman feared it might happen just like this.
Before his team faced the Hawks Monday night, Adelman said the visitors are not only athletic but boasted skilled one-on-one scorers. He also worried about the Hawks getting out in the open floor to spark big runs.
The Hawks proceeded to show what he meant.
The Rockets try to win with scrappiness but their overachieving formula was no match for the Hawks when they are scoring like this. The Hawks overwhelmed the Rockets with Adelman's premonition in a 102-95 victory at the Toyota Center.
Josh Smith scored 22 points with 10 rebounds, Joe Johnson added 20 and Jamal Crawford added another 17 off the bench. They led by double-figures almost the entire second half and when the Rockets pushed back in the fourth quarter, the Hawks kept grinding until they had their third straight victory and eighth in 10 games.
The Hawks won in Houston for the first time since Feb. 25, 1999, snapping a 10-game losing streak. They didn’t always play the team basketball that led to a sizzling offensive night in a victory against Charlotte on Friday night, but they countered the Rockets’ toughness with too many talented scorers and more moxie at winning time.
This was the first stop for the Hawks during a tough week that continues Wednesday night at San Antonio. They also face Boston Friday at Philips Arena and then play at Orlando on Saturday.
“This week we’ll see what we are made of,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said before the game.
The Hawks showed the Rockets how they can be a devastating scoring team even when the offense isn’t flowing. They stayed in the game early on despite not recording an assist until 9:53 of the second quarter but when on to dominate the period 32-19.
Adelman knew it could be like that.
“They are very athletic,” Adelman said. “They have great scorers and great one-on-one players in Johnson and Crawford.”
The Hawks trailed just 25-23 after the first period thanks to eight points from Johnson and five from Crawford as the Hawks made 10 of 21 shots in the period.
The Hawks then cranked up their defense and rebounding in the second quarter. Woodson likes to say open-court basketball is the reward for excelling in those areas and the Hawks got their payoff.
The Hawks took a 55-44 halftime lead with a 12-0 run that featured a 3-pointer by Johnson and two fastbreak baskets plus a layup from Smith. The Rockets missed six shots over that stretch, and the Hawks held an 18-7 rebounding advantage in the second period.
“If you let them get into the open court, you are in big trouble,” Adelman said. “They have the ability to get on these great surges.”
The Rockets got tougher on defense in the third quarter but the Hawks just kept responding. Marvin Williams had eight points and Smith five points as the Hawks took a 77-67 lead into the final period.
The Hawks’ reserves helped maintain that lead until back-to-back baskets by Chase Budinger and Kyle Lowry got the Rockets within 83-76. That prompted Woodson to call Johnson and Smith off the bench and Williams later joined them.
The Rockets trailed 84-78 when Mike Bibby made a 3-pointer and then buried another 3-pointer that put the Hawks ahead 95-84 with four minutes to play.