Houston Rockets 122, Atlanta Hawks 115: How it Happened

Photo by Espen Indrisano | The Signal

Wednesday night featured a battle between two of the league’s best players at State Farm Arena as Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks hosted James Harden and the Houston Rockets: 

Houston had a lot of energy to start the game and built an early 12-4 lead in the first quarter. They even frustrated Trae Young early who picked up a technical foul. However, the Hawks continued to show their metal as they came back to tie the game. John Collins had it going early with 11 points in the opening quarter and giving the Hawks a consistent scoring threat all night long to complement Trae Young, who finished with 42 points.

For the Rockets, Harden didn’t disappoint, as the Beard came out smoking hot and led all scorers with 22 in the first– a reminder to everyone of how dynamic of a scorer he is. The Hawks struggled and gave up 45 providing no answers defensively for a potent offense. Even Collins said, “Giving up 45 points in the first quarter is a lot, it’s a ton of points.” The adjustments would prove to be an integral part of Atlanta coming back in the game. 

Rough start to the second quarter as Atlanta picked up three early fouls in just a few minutes. Yet again, Houston came out hot yet again, opening the quarter on a 10-4 run. Ben McLemore made some threes as well to extend the lead to 22. The pace head coach Mike D’Antoni had his team playing at created plenty of open looks for shooters. Every time the Hawks would cut the lead Houston had an answer. 

Houston controlled things and was up 15 at the half and scored 77 points. 

This was a great game if you love stats because before halftime Clint Capela and Collins both had double-doubles for their respective teams.

The second half was a completely different story for Lloyd Pierce’s team as the offense was more fluid and the defense was a lot better. Rebounds continued to be a constant problem for the Hawks as Capela killed the boards. Atlanta did cut the lead to 4 midway through the third quarter as Young was beginning to catch fire and set up his teammates well.

All that it took for Pierce’s team to come back was erased by a 9-0 run from Houston who extended their lead to 15 to conclude the third after substitutions.

The story of the second half was the defense by De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish. They made life difficult for Harden as he shot 9-34 from the field and was struggling mightily in the second half. Pierce said, “We wanted to send him to his left, you see him make stepbacks they’re usually to his right.” Making life difficult and making Harden uncomfortable bode well for this young team especially the young players. 

In the fourth quarter, the Hawks battled back and cut the lead to 3, forcing a timeout by D’Antoni. Again, the Hawks continued their aforementioned fluidity on offense, setting the pace and helping create shots for the team. It was competitive and a great game to watch. 

The game will go also go down as the first in NBA history to have two players record a 40 point triple-double. 

In the end, Houston hit timely shots in the 4th and pulled away while the Hawks got open looks but just couldn’t hit them.  It was a close game as Rockets win a narrow one 122-115.

Harden and Young both had 40 point triple-doubles showing just how important they both are to the success of their teams. 

Harden already has respect for Young, as he stated, “He continues to show he can be effective in this league and play at a high level.” This is high praise for someone in their 9th year in the league and a consistent top-5 player in MVP voting for the last few years.  

At this point, you know what Young is going to give you every night and that is a steady scoring threat and a playmaker. A welcome sight is the defense played by the rookies. The shooting wasn’t the best in the game, but the coach has repeatedly lamented that he likes to use either Cam Reddish or Hunter on the opposing team’s best perimeter scorer. With consistency and experience who knows how good this tandem can be both offensively and defensively. Let the rookies continue to flourish.

The biggest area for improvement: an upgrade for all frontcourt players not named John Collins. Simply put, Atlanta needs better rebounding and more inside scoring. It seems every time a critical stop is made, the opposing team secures an offensive board stopping the momentum. 

Don’t fret Hawks Fans. Help is on the way! As long as the hawks bolster the frontcourt, allow the rookies to get experience and continue to be patient, this team will formidable in just a few, short years.