The Rockets, apparently, didn’t get the memo.
So here it is again. To the NBA: Al Horford can shoot 3-pointers.
The center hit a career-high five 3-pointers in the Hawks’ dramatic come-from-behind win over the Rockets, 121-115, Tuesday night. The Hawks overcame deficits of 19 points in the first half and 11 points in the fourth quarter for a victory several players labeled the best of the season.
Horford finished with a season-high 30 points, four off his career-best. He also had a season-high 14 rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block.
“They really did a good job at stretching us out,” Rockets center Dwight Howard said after the game. “We were used to being in the paint. In the first half with Horford, he was setting screens and I was looking at touches in the paint, and I turn around and he’s at the 3-point line. And by the time I get out there, he’s already letting the ball go. So it was very difficult to guard at times.”
Paul Millsap and Horford both said after the game that the Rockets were allowing the Hawks frontcourt players to shoot from long range – until it because apparent they could make them. The Hawks were 14 of 41 from 3-point range in the game as they set a franchise-high for attempts. The frontcourt players were a combined 12 of 23. The backcourt players were a combined 2 of 18.
“They were almost willing to live with that,” Horford said of the Hawks’ outside shooting from its big men. “Then in the fourth, they started switching on me so I couldn’t even get open to get a shot. In the beginning, I guess rightfully so, teams figure let them hit shots. I’ve felt like a lot of game this year I’ve had good looks and they just haven’t fallen. I had to stay with it. Tonight, they fell for me.”
It’s no secret to Hawks fans that Horford has been adding the 3-point shot recently. His attempts have risen each of the past three seasons since Mike Budenholzer took over as coach. Horford, through 34 games, has already more makes and attempts this season than his previous eight seasons combined. He is 35 of 104 from long range for a .337 percentage, sixth-best on the team.
The vast majority of Horford’s 3-pointers come from above the break, where he has made 31 of 77 attempts. He is 2 of 5 from the left corner and 2 of 22 from the right corner.
After the Hawks fell behind by 19 points, 47-28, early in the second quarter, Horford started the first comeback. He scored eight straight points, including two 3-pointers. He hit the Hawks’ first two baskets of the third quarter, both 3-pointers. His final long-range make came early in the fourth quarter after the Hawks fell behind by 11 points. His shot pulled the Hawks to within four, 98-94. Later in the quarter, Kent Bazemore hit a step-back 3-pointer to tie the game at 115-115. His fifth long-range make started the Hawks’ run of scoring the games’ final nine points for the win.
“I think they were giving it up,” Millsap said of the Rockets’ 3-point strategy. “I think they played to the percentages. I’m glad Al really stepped up and knocked down some 3’s and really opened it up for us.”
The Rockets will likely remember Horford’s outside game when the teams meet in Philips Arena on March 19. Keep the memo handy.
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