Houston Rockets Game Day: Hit the Road Without Harden
Houston Rockets vs Atlanta Hawks
Tuesday March 3, 7:30 PM EST – Fan Night Game , Philips Arena – Atlanta, GA
Entering tonight’s tilt versus the Atlanta Hawks history is on the Rockets side. The problem is the Rockets need to get this win without their MVP James Harden who was suspended following his raised leg (some would say kick) toward LeBron James late in the game versus Cleveland Sunday.
The Hawks continue to sit atop the Eastern Conference with a huge pad of nine and a half games over Toronto so they appear set to win the Conference. Like Houston they are on a winning streak (4 game win streak) following a blow-out loss to Toronto coming out of the All-Star break. Meanwhile Houston has been the hottest team since the break and enter on a 5 game win streak. The question becomes whether Atlanta can carry their winning ways throughout the remainder of the season and further if they’ll be able to beat teams with their small front court in the playoffs.
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 25.6 assists per game. Their 3-point shooting is lethal; they take the 8th most attempts (25.9 per game), connect on 10 per game, good for 4th best in the Association and shoot from behind the arc with the 2nd best average 38.4%.
Given Houston attempt the most three’s (33.8) and make the most three’s 11.7, this contest has the makings of a barn burner. Houston will need to run the best 3-point sharp shooter Kyle Korver (12-points, all three’s per game/50%) off screens all night to stop him because he has one of the quickest releases in the game.
Last time out Jeff Teague didn’t dress so Patrick Beverley will look to face the man he beat in the All-Star Skills Competition who basically took P.B. for granted. We’ll see if Teague makes the same mistake tonight. The other point guard who continues to grow and show off his speed is Dennis Schroder
Hawks: Rank 6th – 106.3
Rockets: Rank 12th- 103.5
Hawks: Rank 4th holding teams to 99.8 points per game
Rockets: Rank 3rd holding teams to 99.7 points per game
Hawks: Rank 2nd with positive +6.5
Rockets: Rank sixth with positive +3.8
Opponent Points Per Game
Many can point to the return of Al Horford who missed last season with a torn pectoral muscle but recently he’s been sporting a padded vest which makes me wonder if his shoulders are once again a problem. If the Rockets utilize their size on Horford and Paul Millsap it could provide the edge. Look for Terrence Jones, Josh Smith and Donatas Motiejunas to capitalize in this area.
If you recall the last time out, Pero Antic got away with mugging and flopping all night let’s keep an eye on whether the zebra’s allow him to play these games again.
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.
It’s not a surprise the odds makers picked Atlanta at home to win, but to make them 8.5 point favorites is a bit of a stretch. Bottom line whoever wins the three point scoring should win the game. I’d say it will be closer than the odds makers are saying and if the zebras don’t pull another “lets help the Hawks out night” I think Houston can surprise the Hawks in an upset win.
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