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Rockets vs. Hawks preview: The Dwight Howard Bowl

The Hawks need a victory on Saturday evening and James Harden is in the way.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Washington Wizards Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks will complete their first back-to-back of the young season on Saturday night, and their opponent will be James Harden and the Houston Rockets. On Friday evening, the Hawks fell short in the nation’s capital despite a valiant comeback and the offensive struggles endured in that match-up should be lessened by the opponent on Saturday.

The biggest story line on this particular evening is the first match-up between Dwight Howard and his old team, and that will certainly be the national angle. For the most part, Howard has performed quite well in his first quintet of games for Atlanta, but the bad blood with the Rockets likely remains, and his performance will be interesting to monitor, especially if Howard is overanxious or overaggressive in an effort to “prove his old team wrong” for letting him go.

Houston is an explosive offensive team, led by Harden, but on the defensive end, the Rockets are deeply flawed. That could be an elixir for a suddenly struggling Hawks offense, even with the caveat that Houston’s offense is quite capable of making any defense look silly behind Harden, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson and others.

In terms of exposing that Rockets defense, it would be nice to get the wings going for Atlanta. Kent Bazemore has struggled throughout the season, shooting 28 percent from the floor and just 15 percent from three, and Kyle Korver is also in a mini-slump after making just 2 of his 15 attempts over the past two games. Houston does have a capable wing defender in Trevor Ariza and the aforementioned Gordon has been improved, but the Rockets are a team prime to help the Hawks “get right” on offense.

There is a scenario in which this Rockets team is the best opponent that the Atlanta Hawks have faced this season, making this an interesting benchmark. Houston’s strengths and weaknesses aren’t exactly conventional, but that makes this kind of match-up fun and we’ll be here throughout the evening for all the latest.

Stay tuned.

Game Info

Game Date/Time: Saturday, November 5, 7:30 p.m. ET

Location: Philips Arena

TV: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

Radio: 92.9 “The Game” FM