By E. Marcel Pourtout, Editor
The Atlanta Hawks won their fifth consecutive contest and 10-of-their-last-12 games with a 109-97 home victory over the Houston Rockets at Philips Arena on Saturday evening.
Six Hawks scored in double-figures led by a team-high 22 points from Al Horford who also grabbed nine rebounds. Paul Millsap notched a double-double with 11 points and team-high 10 rebounds. Tim Hardaway, Jr. scored 20 points off the bench for Atlanta which shot 50 percent from the field in the victory, making 14 three-pointers.
“The way we started the game and the we finished the game defensively a 16-point first quarter and then most importantly a 14-point fourth quarter, I thought the guys were just great on that end of the court,” Hawks’ head coach Mike Budenholzer said. “It fueled a little bit of the offense both in the first and the fourth quarter.”
MIchael Beasley scored a game-high 30 points off the bench for Houston which shot 39.9 percent from the field in the loss, making only five out of 23 three-pointer attempts. James Harden finished with 25 points, a game-high eight assists and five rebounds. Dwight Howard grabbed a game-high 17 rebounds and scored eight points for the Rockets.
“The Hawks are a very good defensive team,” Houston interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “The philosophy on defense is to close out to the three-point shooter and defend the stuff you like to do. They were aggressive on the ball.”
Trailing 58-52 to start the second half, two consecutive three-pointers by Kyle Korver cut Atlanta’s deficit to 62-60 early in the third quarter. He finished the contest with 11 points. Both teams traded baskets for the rest of the quarter with the Rockets taking an 83-82 lead into the fourth quarter.
Atlanta mounted its comeback to start the fourth quarter and a three-pointer in the right corner by Hardaway gave the Hawks an 88-87 lead with 8:25 left in regulation. Beasley’s layup at the 4:34 mark of the fourth quarter cut Atlanta’s lead to 95-93. Horford’s three-pointer in the right corner made it 100-95 with 3:12 to go.
Atlanta sealed the victory with a Thabo Sefolosha three pointer, making the score 103 -95 with two minutes left in the game.
Atlanta jumped out to an early 13-10 lead midway through the first quarter. The Hawks continued their strong play and led 30-16 at the end of the first quarter.
Houston outscored Atlanta 42-22 in the second quarter and took a 58-52 lead into halftime. The Rockets shot 60.9 percent in the second quarter led by Harden’s 14 point as he hit all four of his field goal attempts including two three-pointers.
Atlanta shot 42.9 percent from the field in the first half led by a team-high 13 points from Horford and 12 from Hardaway. Houston shooting percentage was 44.4 percent with Harden scoring a game-high 16 points while Beasley scored 11 off the bench through the first two quarters.