The game was essentially an afterthought, and it appeared that any thoughts that the Hawks had in defending or rebounding were also. This was the second straight game that Atlanta has gotten lured into a shoot out free wheeling offensive game, yet unlike in the victory over the Raptors, the Hawks were unable to come up with any key stops in order to give their offense a chance.
Atlanta got off to a fast start leading 31-29 at the end of the first quarter. With both teams pushing the pace during that first period it was doubtful that Houston could maintain their effort having played an overtime game the night before and not arriving in Atlanta until the wee hours of the morning. However, it was Houston's bench that answered the call in the 2nd period. Aaron Brooks led the charge with strong support coming from Jordan Hill and Patrick Patterson.
After leading by two at the break, Atlanta was outscored by three 27-24 in the third quarter. The Hawks led 78-69 with just over four minutes remaining before Houston would close the quarter on a 13-4 run that would put the Rockets in the lead 83-82 at the end of three.
Over the first six minutes and change of the fourth quarter, Atlanta was held to just six points while the Rockets turned a one point deficit into a 13 point lead. By that point the game was essentially over.
Offensively, the Hawks played well enough to win shooting 49% from the field. Al Horford came up two assists shy of a triple double finishing with 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists. Joe Johnson pumped in 30 points to go along with seven assists. Josh Smith scored 21 points and grabbed a team high 12 rebounds in the loss.
Offensively they were close, defensively they were miles apart. Effort was sometimes lacking as the smaller Rockets out rebounded the Hawks 45-32. Luis Scola worked Josh Smith over in the post throughout the first half before Chuck Hayes took over that job in the second half.
The biggest difference came in terms of bench production. Jamal Crawford saw his streak of consecutive twenty point games come to an end as he finished with just eight in this one. The Hawks got 15 points from its bench tonight while the Rockets got 40 combined points from Aaron Brooks and Jordan Hill.
In closing this one is one of the more forgettable games that the Hawks have played recently. The defensive effort closely resembled the effort that was on display in Los Angeles and Toronto most recently. The difference was that Atlanta found a way to win those games. They weren't so lucky in this one and the lack of execution on the defensive end is hardly a recipe for success. It is only one game and I am sure there will be others like it over the course of the remainder of the season, but it also begs to be reminded that every game counts and with how tight the Eastern Conference standings are at the moment one game could be difference in having home court advantage or having to go one the road in the first round of the playoffs.
The loss snaps the Hawks ten game home winning streak and puts them in fifth place in the Eastern Conference one half game behind the Orlando Magic. The Hawks will look to start a new home streak on Monday in their annual MLK Day matinée when the Sacramento Kings visit Philips Arena.