The Hawks were in Houston on Sunday night for their final matchup with the Rockets this season. With Dennis Schröder being held out of action again, the Hawks had to call upon Isaiah Taylor and Josh Magette to shoulder big minutes against a tough team in the midst of a long Western Conference road trip.
The injuries for the Hawks include a laundry list of players, starting with Kent Bazemore, who has now been ruled out for the remainder of the season. Also out for the Hawks was Schröder, who turned his left ankle in the Hawks last game. Antonius Cleveland, who recently inked a multi-season contract with Atlanta, also remains out rehabbing his ankle from surgery he had before the season. Malcolm Delaney and Jaylen Morris were also out with ankle sprains and the remainders of both guys’ seasons are in doubt. Finally, to top it all off, DeAndre’ Bembry continues to be out with an abdominal strain that has kept him out for a while now.
As expected, the Rockets began the game by raining down three-pointer after three-pointer, starting with P.J. Tucker and Eric Gordon. For the Hawks, Taylor did his best to try to respond, as the young point guard made a couple of three-pointers himself and was really going to the rim hard. Trevor Ariza really caught fire for Houston as he rattled off four three-pointers in a big first quarter for the Rockets. The Hawks completely depended on Taylor and Taurean Prince for all of their scoring in the first quarter and were down 33-20 at the end of the period as a result.
As if it were even possible, Houston continued to heat up in the second quarter as Gerald Green entered the game and began firing away from beyond the arc. Atlanta heightened their intensity slightly with bench players Tyler Dorsey and Mike Muscala beginning to contribute but still were depending on Prince and Taylor, who both did well for the Hawks. It is not your night when James Harden cannot get any shots to drop and you are still down by 24 at halftime, which is where the Hawks were tonight in Houston. Harden, for all his struggles, did have 11 first-half assists as the Rockets led at the break 69-45.
The third period was a better one for Atlanta as the Rockets cooled down slightly. Big men Dewayne Dedmon and John Collins made a bigger effort to get involved as the Hawks got basically nothing from the frontcourt in the first half. Prince played some commendable defense against Harden in the third quarter as the Rockets started to play more relaxed. The Hawks outscored Houston by four in the third quarter but still carried a 94-74 deficit into the fourth.
The fourth quarter was played pretty stagnantly from both sides as Harden sat resting. Collins was really working hard down low on both defense and for rebounds as he seemed fully healthy after two ankle turns in the last week. The Rockets just kept firing away from three-point range as they wracked up 20 makes in 52 attempts on the night. The Hawks once again limped to the finish as the team looked tired and rightfully so after these last couple of games against elite NBA teams.
Taylor posted a career-high 26 points in the losing effort for Atlanta. Prince continued his strong play to end the season with 28 points tonight.
The Hawks will finish the long road trip on Wednesday in Minnesota. Stay tuned.