After giving up 45 points in the first quarter and falling behind by 23 points in the first half, the Hawks (8-30) made things competitive in the second half in a 122-115 loss to the Rockets (25-11) Wednesday at State Farm Arena.
Below are some takeaways from the loss:
1. By quite a wide margin, this was a much more competitive matchup than the last time the Hawks faced the Rockets Nov. 30. In that game, with no John Collins or Kevin Huerter, the Hawks were obliterated 158-111 in Houston despite 37 points from Trae Young, and James Harden was unstoppable, scoring a season-high 60 points in 30 minutes. This time around, the Hawks put up a fight. They gave up 45 points in the first quarter but contained better in the second to trail 77-62 at halftime (compared to the 81-52 disaster of a first half in Houston), pulling within four points at the 3:36 mark in the third quarter. The Rockets always had a response, though, and made four 3’s to close out the third and lead by 14 entering the fourth. After the Hawks pulled within three points with 18.7 seconds left, Harden made four free throws (he went 19-for-23 in the game) in the final moments to clinch the win. “Great effort for our guys to come back a couple times in the second half. ... We outscore them in the second, outscore them in the second half,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “I’m proud of our guys, I just think they’re competing. I really do.”
2. The first quarter was all Harden, who leads the league in scoring (38.5 points per game) and in 3-pointers made (181). He had 22 points and six assists in the first as Houston took a 45-29 lead, and finished with a triple-double of 41 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Outside of that first quarter, though, the Hawks contained Harden relatively well, with rookie De’Andre Hunter helping to limit him to 12 points in the second half. The Rockets shot just 29.2% from the field in the second half (14-for-48), allowing the Hawks to gain ground. “I just think we tried to keep him on the sideline throughout the course of the game,” Pierce said of the strategy to defend Harden. “We tried to switch 1 through 4 throughout the course of the game and we ended up just adjusting and sending him left, everywhere. No matter where he was, we wanted to send him to his left. You see him make stepbacks, and they’re usually to his right.”
3. Continuing to boost his All-Star case, Trae Young recorded his third career triple-double with 42 points (11-for-30 field goals, 4-for-11 from 3-point range, 16-for-18 free throws), 13 rebounds and 10 assists. That’s good for the first 40-point triple-double in Hawks history. He leads the Eastern Conference in 40-point performances (six). “We’ve been giving it a lot these last few games,” Young said. “It’s really exciting to see, especially since we’ve got a lot of our guys back healthy. It’s been good to see, we just have to figure out how to close games.” It’s the first time in NBA history two players had 40-point triple-doubles in the same game.
4. Despite the Rockets’ defense pretty much ignoring him on corner 3’s, the Hawks’ Cam Reddish got off to a rough start on offense, going 1-for-7 from the field in the first half (0-for-4 from 3-point range). He had five quick points to start the second half, but finished with seven points (3-for-11 field goals, 1-for-7 from 3-point range), two rebounds and zero assists, with one steal. The rookie has been a consistent defender but has struggled to find consistency shooting this season -- he’s averaging 4.6 points per game over his last five contests.
5. With no Jabari Parker, the Hawks went with a smaller starting lineup, with Reddish starting and power forward Collins sliding over to center, though he often played in his normal spot with Alex Len, who had 14 points and 10 rebounds, at center. Parker (right shoulder impingement) underwent a non-surgical procedure Tuesday and will miss at least two weeks while recovering and rehabbing. Collins finished with a double-double of 17 points and 14 rebounds, adding four blocked shots (for the fourth time in his career, Collins registered a double-double in a single half, with 15 points and 10 rebounds in the first half alone).
By the Numbers
63.6% (what the Rockets shot in the first quarter, or 14-for-22, which put the Hawks behind from the get-go)
“Just in general, I thought our game plan from the first quarter on was really good, and that’s why we were back in the game.” (Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce on the Hawks competing well beginning in the second quarter)
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