Entering tonight’s tilt versus the Atlanta Hawks history is on the Rockets side. Houston haven’t lost to Atlanta on their home court since 2010, have won 6 of the past 7 outings and hold an all time home record of 54-19 against them. What might spoil a continuation of this dominance is Atlanta is one of the hottest teams currently and not just East teams, but the entire league.
The Hawks are 9-1 in their past 10-outings with the only blip being a closely contested loss to Orlando. are on a 2-game winning streak and play above .500 on the road. Perhaps their best win came against Cleveland who they assaulted on their home court (127-98) leading coach Blatt to exclaim he was embarrassed by the outing.
San Antonio East:
I like to refer to the Hawks as San Antonio East and not just because their coach Mike Budenhozer used to be Popovich’s right hand man. The Hawks move the ball, ranking second in the league with 25.8 assists per game. Their 3-point shooting is lethal; they take the 7th most attempts (25 per game), connect on 9.4 per game, good for 6th best in the Association and shoot from behind the arc with the 4th best average 378%.
Given Houston attempt the most three’s (33.8) and make the most three’s 11.5, this contest has the makings of a barn burner. Houston will need to run the second best 3-point sharp shooter Kyle Korver (26-points per game/54%) off screens all night to stop him because he has one of the quickest releases in the game.
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Apparently Jeff Teague will not dress for tonight’s game which is a blessing for Houston since Teague is the head of the snake in terms of creating space on the floor for his team and initiating the offense. This should allow Patrick Beverley and James Harden more freedom of movement having to only worry about Dennis Schroder
Thiefs Among Us:
At this point it appears newly acquired Corey Brewer will not play this evening which is unfortunate as he leads the league in steals with 2.3 per game. Ranking just behind him is Paul Millsap who gets 2.2 steals per game.
Al Horford is showing signs of finally rounding into shape after missing a good portion of last season due to a torn pectoral muscle and Paul Millsap is a true stretch-four the reality is Houston should own this battle with their own stretch-4 Donatas Motiejunas and big man Dwight Howard.
Keys to Winning:
- Run Atlanta off the 3-point line
- Don’t look for Trevor Ariza to score huge points tonight, he’ll be tired from all the screens he’ll be running through just to stop Korver from getting his 3-point shots off
- Take advantage of Rocket’s size inside where it should equal a massive advantage in the paint.
As much as Atlanta are on fire, Houston hasn’t lost two in a row at home all season so I’m looking for Howard and Motiejunas to manhandle the undersized Hawks in the paint and for Harden and company to keep the Hawks busy chasing them off their own 3-point line. I’ll take Houston by 5.
See you back here after the game where we’ll rank the team’s performance and individual players on their execution