The Hawks fell behind by 20 in the fourth quarter and could not overcome the gap in a 121-105 loss to the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night at State Farm Arena.
Trae Young led the Hawks (24-48) with 21 points and 12 assists. John Collins had 20 points and 10 rebounds.
The Rockets gradually wore down the Hawks, culminating in Gary Clark’s 3-point shot with 45.6 seconds to play that gave the Rockets (45-26) an 18-point lead, at 121-103.
“They get to the rim, and they shoot 3’s,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “We know who they are. We know what they want to do. Taking that away is a difficult task. I just thought in the first half we did not take away the roller, and the second half we were late and not urgent taking away the 3-point shot.”
DeAndre’ Bembry’s layup with 2:56 to play in the fourth quarter closed the gap for the Hawks to 14, at 113-99. Young’s two free throws left the Hawks at 115-101, but a 3-pointer from Danuel House pushed the Rockets to a 17-point lead with less than two minutes in the game.
The Rockets’ biggest lead was 20 points when Chris Paul made a 3-point shot with 6:47 to play in the game.
“Second-half execution was tough, I think they turned it up a little bit,” Collins said. “Hit some shots, hit a lot of tough shots, and I think that pushed the lead out. With a team like that, if they get a lead they know how to keep it.”
The Hawks stayed within striking distance through the first half, with Collins’ dunk tying the score at 41-41 with 4:35 left in the second quarter, but the Rockets scored the next eight points and led 53-47 at the end of the half.
“I mean, we were making shots,” Young said. “I just think both teams were making plays. Neither team was stopping each other and it was just neck-and-neck in that first half.”
The Hawks held James Harden to 1-for-6 in 3-point shooting in the first half, and Paul was 0-for-3 on 3-point shots. Harden finished the half with 16 points and Paul with three.
The Houston stars improved in the second half. Harden, who led all scorers, finished with 31 points, shooting 4-for-11 on 3’s, while Paul ended the game with 13 points and shot 2-for-6 from 3-point distance.
The Rockets struggled from behind the arc through the first half and shot 19 percent. They improved in the second half and for the game shot 40.4 percent.
Pierce said the deficit in free-throw attempts for the Hawks compared with the Rockets provided a frustrating factor to the game’s outcome. The Rockets went to the free-throw line twice as much as the Hawks. The Rockets were 22-for-30 from the line, while the Hawks were 12-for-15.
“Just the free throws hurts us, and when you play a team like Houston that can spread you out and spread the basketball for a lot of 3-point attempts. We try and do the same thing on the other end. We just didn’t get the benefit,” Pierce said. “And so it’s frustrating for our guys who can out and competed at a high level tonight, even with some of our mistakes.”
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