One of the toughest parts of falling behind early is the amount of energy it takes to dig back out of the hole. Houston hit eight of their first ten shots in putting the Atlanta Hawks down 20-9 midway through the first quarter. From there the Hawks played catch up the entire game and after clearly didn't have the energy to pull off the comeback falling 95-84 for the first time this season.
The Hawks had opportunities but it seemed that every single time they would make a run the Houston Rockets had an answer and usually of the three-point variety. The Rockets ended up hitting nine threes in the game led by Kevin Martin's 27 points and 6-10 shooting from beyond-the-arc. Atlanta cut Houston's lead to 79-73 with just over five minutes remaining in the game before two Atlanta turnovers and five straight points from the Rockets put them back up 84-73.
Here are some thoughts from Atlanta's first loss of the season:
Teague finished the game with six points and five assists which fell short by a mile of what the Hawks needed from him this night. He was passive throughout and didn't attempt a field goal in the first half and had only one through three quarters. Larry Drew pulled him midway through the first and midway through the third. This was a night with the Hawks lacking energy that they needed Teague to force the issue a little more.
The player movement simply wasn't there Saturday night and thus neither was the ball movement. With Teague being passive Atlanta's offense broke down into a lot of dribble and iso situations that didn't turn out well for the Hawks. It wasn't limited to just the starters, at one point when the second unit was on the floor, Tracy McGrady looked visibly frustrated by his teammates non-movement. Atlanta got to the free throw line 10 times in the first half but only six more over the course of the rest of the game.
Basketball is a game of give and take. If you allow dribble penetration then it forces help defense. If the defense has to help then it exposes you on the perimeter. If your rotations are slow then you are probably in for a long night. Up until Saturday night, Atlanta had done a pretty good job at cutting off dribble penetration and had done a decent enough job at closing out on shooters. They were a step slow from the tip on Saturday night and Houston made them pay.
Williams hit his first three shots and kept the Hawks in the game when they were making their early first quarter run. He ended up with nine points and four rebounds in just under 21 minutes of action and played sparingly in the second half. Tracy McGrady provides the Hawks with a nice veteran presence that is capable of hitting a shot or making the correct pass but Atlanta missed Marvin's rebounding in this game with the Rockets grabbing 11 offensive rebounds in the game. People often talk about the Hawks needing more from Marvin Williams but it is hard for him to deliver if he is sitting on the bench.
McGrady ended up scoring 13 points and grabbing six rebounds in 25 minutes. Jannero Pargo and Willie Green combined to score 11 points on 5-10 shooting with two turnovers. Zaza Pachulia picked up two quick fouls in the first half which prompted the first appearance this season of Jason Collins. Collins didn't score a point or grab a rebound in just over five minutes but took a charge that sent Luis Scola to the bench with his third foul in the first half. Vladimir Radmanovic went scoreless missing all five of his shots from the field.
Hard to use the four games in five nights excuse when Houston was playing their third game in three days. It is also hard to use that excuse when that is going to be the norm with this compressed regular season schedule. For whatever reason, the Hawks simply didn't have it Saturday night and they will have an off day on Sunday to try to figure things out.