It’s never easy to explain away a 29-point defeat in the NBA, but the Atlanta Hawks will be searching for answers after a 113-84 demolition at the hands of the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.
The Rockets jumped out to an 18-6 lead over the first 7 minutes of the night, and while the Hawks battled for much of the middle portion, Houston gave up the lead in a wire-to-wire win. It’s pretty shocking to consider that the Hawks actually outscored the Rockets by 1 point in the 2nd and 3rd quarters combined, but that was exactly the case, and it looked for most of the night as if the final margin would simply reflect the difference of the opening minutes.
Then, the 4th quarter happened.
Houston ran away and hid from the Hawks in the final frame, outscoring the visiting team 36-17 (yikes) and relegating the Atlanta regulars to the bench in the final minutes. The Rockets made their first 7 shots in the 4th (including 3 from beyond the arc), and nothing Atlanta did seemed to stem the tide. In fact, the entire night was marred by Houston firing off runs in response to Atlanta’s small pushes toward the lead.
On the whole, Houston’s offensive numbers were enough to make any Hawks fan (or fan of defense, in general) groan aloud. The Rockets shot 55.1% from the field and a staggering 14 for 27 (51.9%) from the 3-point line in the game, and while that was certainly aided by some wild shotmaking from guys like Aaron Brooks (7 of 12, 21 points in 27 minutes) and Francisco Garcia (9 of 14, 21 points in 33 minutes) off of the bench, the defense wasn’t without fault.
Perhaps the most depressing part of the loss, though, was the fact that Houston was able to do this to Atlanta without the services of James Harden. Giving up this kind of production at this level of efficiency is bad enough, but when allowing it to a team without (by far) its top offensive weapon is downright disturbing.
As far as individual performances were concerned, nothing stood out in a positive way for the Hawks, but there was a negative showing that was surprising. Jeff Teague finished the night with just 4 points and 6 assists over 25 minutes of game action, and the star point guard failed to register a single field goal in 5 attempts. That is brutal timing for Jeff (as well as for this piece about his All-Star candidacy as a starter), but I suppose it was a good time to suffer a disastrous performance, simply because it wouldn’t have mattered much.
Al Horford (14 points, 8 rebounds), Paul Millsap (16 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals), Cartier Martin (14 points, 4 threes), and John Jenkins (13 points, 3 threes) were all in double-figures, but every member of the Hawks that played 20+ minutes (there were 8 players) posted a -11 or worse while on the floor. It was good to see John Jenkins and Dennis Schröder log serious minutes (33 and 27, respectively) in the absence of Kyle Korver, Lou Williams, and Shelvin Mack, though, and there were positives to each guy’s showing despite 4 turnovers a piece.
To be honest, the margin of victory made this game look a bit more lopsided than it actually was, but make no mistake, the Hawks were soundly outplayed during most of the night, and that is very disappointing. There will be nights when shots aren’t falling for Atlanta and they are all going down for the other team, but losing by 29 to a team without one of its best players (and a top-15 player in the league) is utterly unacceptable, and it’ll be a long holiday before the Hawks can take the court again on Friday.