Hawks guard Trae Young (right) drives past Houston Rockets forward PJ Tucker. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
Photo: Michael Wyke/AP
Photo: Michael Wyke/AP

James Harden scores 60 as Rockets take down Hawks

The Hawks (4-16) couldn’t get anything going in a 158-111 loss to the Rockets Saturday in Houston. 

Below are some takeaways from the loss: 

1. Facing the Rockets on the road on the second night of a back-to-back is a tough scheduling draw, yes. Particularly with James Harden leading the league in scoring like he is (he was averaging 38.9 points entering Saturday’s game). But the Hawks weren’t even competitive in this one, falling behind from the start and allowing 81 points in the first half. The deficit hit 50 with 3:22 left in the third quarter. They were dwarfed in nearly every statistical category, with the Rockets shooting 58.4% from the field to the Hawks’ 42.7% and shooting 49% from 3-point range (25 of 51) to the Hawks’ 32.6% (15 of 46). 

2. Speaking of Harden, who is in the MVP conversation yet again, the Hawks simply had no answer for him. Harden had 43 points in his first 22 minutes, his eighth 3-pointer of the game giving the Rockets a 36-point lead with 8:40 still to play in the third quarter. He finished with a season-high 60 points, making 8 of 14 3’s, to go with eight assists and three steals. “We try to do what we have to do against James, which is throw a lot of bodies at him,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “Try and put him under duress. He just didn’t feel us. He didn’t feel us with the doubles, he didn’t feel us with the blitz, he didn’t feel us with the extra defender running out at him.” 

3. This blowout marked the Hawks’ tenth straight loss. It was a departure, however, from their last few games they had been competitive in until late, particularly Friday’s 105-104 overtime loss in Indianapolis. It’s a loss Pierce will try to move on from quickly, and focus instead on what had gone right for the Hawks in games prior: “I think this one, it’s the end of a three-game trip, second night of a back-to-back, it just wasn’t our night and it definitely was theirs. We know, everyone knows in this league, when they get going like that, they’re a rim and 3 team. For them to get up 50-plus 3’s, make 25-plus, that’s a unique night. But you just move on. We played extremely well (Friday), take Indiana to overtime, we played extremely well against Milwaukee, we have to find ways to continue to focus on what we did in those games and the effort we put in those games. Try and push this one aside and hopefully it’s just one of those unique deals.” 

4. Trae Young had another stellar (and efficient) night, scoring 37 points to go with seven assists. On this back-to-back, Young has averaged 43 points and 6.5 assists, shooting 59.1% from the field (26 of 44), 54.2% from 3-point range (13 of 24) and 95.5% from the line (21 of 22). Young has been transparent that his personal accolades mean little to him if the Hawks aren’t winning, though, and was frustrated (and motivated to get things turned around) after the loss: “I’m mad. It’s frustrating. Losing that much and losing that bad, it’s never acceptable. ... For me, I’m mad, and all I can do, all we can do as a team is change it on the court. We can’t really talk about it anymore.” 

5. Defensive rebounding has been a problem for the Hawks, entering Saturday’s game tied for 26th in the league with 32.7 per game. Those problems continued, with the Rockets grabbing 52 rebounds (39 defensive, 13 offensive) to the Hawks’ 29 rebounds (21 defensive, 8 offensive). The Rockets tallied 20 second-chance points to the Hawks’ three.

By the numbers 

16 of 24 (or 66.7%, what Harden shot from the field in just over 30 minutes)

Quotable 

“We’ve got to lock in better. I don’t like hearing ‘We’re too young, it’s a process,’ and all that. It is, and all that, but you still have to try and win games. And we’re capable of winning games. And that’s all that I’m thinking about.” (Trae Young on what the Hawks can do better moving forward)

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