Rockets fall to Hawks, 83-80

Rockets fall to Hawks, 83-80
January 10, 2014, 10:15 pm
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Just when it looked the Houston Rockets had finally learned their lesson about slow starts, they fell back into old habits and let a Hawks team they had clobbered earlier this season, even the score and beat them, 83-80 in the opener of a four-game road trip.

The Rockets held the Hawks scoreless for nearly the first six minutes of the game and built an 11-0 lead. But even with that start, Houston only managed 18 first quarter points and the offense was very inefficient throughout the entire game. The second half was especially troubling as the Rockets made just 13-of-32 shots (40.6 percent) and committing 13 of their 18 turnovers.

Late in the game with 15 seconds left, the Rockets were down 81-78 and had the ball coming out of a timeout. James Harden drove into the lane and found Jeremy Lin in the corner for a good look at a long jumper which he drained with six seconds remaining. The problem was that long jumper wasn't long enough. Lin had his foot on the 3-point line and the call was made correctly by the referees to signal it was just a long 2-point shot.

Harden led the Rockets in scoring for the fourth consecutive game, but he had just 25 points in this game, after scoring 37 or more in each of the previous three contests.

Their offense was just bad enough to prevent what was actually a good defensive game, at least in the halfcourt. The Hawks 83 points tied a season-low for a Rockets opponent and they even held the Hawks scoreless for nearly six minutes of the fourth quarter.

But during that fourth quarter stretch, Houston made just 1-of-4 shots and also missed 3-of-7 free throws. While the Rockets did go on a 9-0 run, the Hawks tied the game when they broke the scoring drought with Kyle Korver draining one of his four 3-pointers. Korver scored 15 of his game-high 20 points in the second half, including all four of his free throws in the final 15 seconds.

One area where the Rockets struggled was retreating defensively. They allowed the Hawks to score 20 fast break points, just the fifth time in 37 games this season, their opponents have scored at least 20 points on the fast break.

"They outran us in transition and got early stuff," Rockets head coach Kevin McHale said. "We didn't get matched up well in transition."

Paul Millsap also added 20 points and a team-high five assists and Elton Brand, while scoreless, did add 11 rebounds and three blocked shots.

Houston made just 6-of-19 3-pointers (31.6 percent), the sixth time in their last seven games they've connected on less than 32 percent of the 3-point shots.

"We couldn't make shots and we couldnt get the ball where we wanted to on the offensive end," McHale said. "They would deny something and we didn't make an adjustment with our dribble to improve our angle. It was just one of those games where we were stuck in the mud offensively. We started off with good flow, but after that we never seemed to get anything going."