The Atlanta Hawks came into Houston looking to put together a winning streak. But this Rockets squad is much better than the rebuilding teams of the past few years, so a win would come as a legitimate challenge on the road.
The Hawks hit threes early on, punishing the double big lineup from the Rockets — Sengun and Smith Jr. — with floor stretching. Trae Young in particular used screens over and over to free himself from pesky defender Dillon Brooks.
Houston countered with some hot shooting of their own, but Atlanta could barely miss and so the Hawks mounted a decent lead by the end of the first period. The visitors took a 39-29 lead after one behind 8-for-16 (50%) shooting from deep.
The Hawks continued to go nuclear from range, finding easy shooting space and letting it fly at will. They took a 52-33 lead quickly and forced Rockets head coach Ime Udoka to call a timeout to settle things down.
Houston was playing ‘catch up’ from almost the opening tip, but Atlanta was able to hold them at arm’s length in the first half. Even the ball sharing was almost picture perfect from Atlanta’s offense.
Bogi is kinda out here wheeling and dealing pic.twitter.com/pOy6Tri4XV— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) December 21, 2023
Atlanta also did an admirable job defensively, and that combined with precise execution on offense in the first half gave them a 77-65 lead at halftime. Four players had already hit double figures in scoring by halftime and Atlanta remained hot from three, going 13-for-26 (50%) in the first half.
In the third quarter, the Rockets refused to go away. Some crafty buckets by Alperen Sengun kept things close early on. Cold shooting from Atlanta didn’t help, and just like that the lead was down to 84-81.
The Hawks got into defensive foul trouble early as well, putting Houston on the line a lot late in the third quarter. Starting 0-for-6 from deep in the third quarter compounded problems, and suddenly the Rockets had captured a 92-91 lead.
By the end of the third quarter, Houston held a 100-98 lead. In the third quarter alone, the Hawks shot 0-for-8 from three while the Rockets countered with 5-for-12 from three. Atlanta would need a strong fourth quarter to pull this one out.
Atlanta put together a 9-0 run between the third and fourth quarter to take a 107-100 lead. Onyeka Okongwu was at the finishing end of multiple lob passes from Trae Young and Bogdan Bogdanovic for extra punctuation, like the one below.
The Hawks used this energy to continue to surge. Atlanta continued to feed off the momentum and found openings everywhere on the court.
Still, Houston put together a run of their own to make it 127-118, and so the game could not be decided heading into the final three minutes of the contest. A handful of ugly offensive possessions by Atlanta down the stretch opened the door for Houston.
After a Dillon Brooks steal to lead a fastbreak, the Hawks clung to a tenuous 129-125 with 52 seconds left in the contest. On the next possession, Young beat a double team with a feed to Saddiq Bey for an open triple. From there, the Hawks hung on for a 134-127 victory.
Onyeka Okongwu played the final 17 minutes straight and logged 19 minutes and 11 rebounds. Trae Young finished with 30 points and 13 assists, his fifth such ‘30 and 10’ game straight which puts him in rarified air all-time.
Game streaks of 30 points and 10 assists, NBA history:— Wes (@bloghawk) December 21, 2023
7 - Oscar Robertson, 1964
6 - Oscar Robertson, 1964
5 - Russell Westbrook, 2017
5 - Michael Jordan, 1989
5 - Tiny Archibald, 1973
5 - Trae Young*, 2023
The Hawks now take their two-game winning streak down to Miami for a game with the Heat on Friday.