Oct 20, 2016; Omaha, NE, USA; Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard (8) in action against the Chicago Bulls at CenturyLink Center Omaha. Atlanta defeated Chicago 97-81. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
Houston Rockets play their fifth road game of the early season facing the Atlanta Hawks. The question fans are eager to answer is who’ll reign supreme James Harden’s Rockets or Dwight Howard’s Hawks.
From the moment free agency opened few Houston Rockets fans expected to see Dwight Howard back as the teams’ center. For as much as Howard provided long stretches of solid defense and helped the Rockets to the playoffs in each year of his residency in Houston there was always something that never quite clicked.
Upon Howard’s initial signing many hoped he would join the ranks of historic big men who had patrolled Clutch City’s paint. But, with the signing of James Harden the two never found a mutually beneficial way to capitalize on their assets. Sure, they made it to the Western Conference Finals together, but looking back Howard missed a big portion of the games that season. And, in the pivotal come back versus the Clippers both stars sat watching for the majority of it.
Last season, their inability to gel reached a fever pitch on and off the court. Whether you are of the opinion Howard deserved more touches or slowed the Rockets offense with his limited offensive versatility one thing is clear – both super stars are happier playing without the other.
In Howard’s case he’s taken his defensive prowess home to the Atlanta Hawks who currently rank second defensively in the NBA. And chef Harden has his Rockets humming along with the 4th ranked offense.
Though it may not be as drama filled as Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant’s first meeting it does provide Red Nation fans added drama. Of note
The Hawks could offer a good test of the Rockets offense on Saturday. Even after their loss to the Lakers on Wednesday, the Hawks are second in the NBA in defensive rating, allowing 94.7 points per 100 possessions. The Rockets are fourth in offensive rating, scoring 110.9 points per 100 possessions, and are fifth in scoring and field goal percentage.
as per Jonathan Feigen Houston Chronicle
Heading into the match tonight there are some key stats adding intrigue to the contest:
- The Rockets have lost their last 5 meetings versus the Hawks
- Hawks rank 2nd defensively (94.7), 11th on offense (103. 8) and 4th net (+9.7)
- Rockets rank 28th on defense (109.0 ), 4th on offense (110.9) and 12th net (+1.9)
- James Harden leads the league in assists with 12.4 per game, is 4th in points 31.8
- Dwight Howard ranks 5th in rebounding with 12.0 per game and 7th in blocks 2.0 pg while Clint Capela is 40th in rebounding (7.6) and 27th in blocks (1.2)
- Hawks rank 17th in 3 point defense
- This will already be the Rockets 5th road game of the early season (7 of Rockets first 8 games are on the road)
Atlanta jumped out of the gate with 3 straight wins, but have lost 2 in a row since. Those losses went to the lowly Lakers and last night offered the Wizards their first win of the season. Houston also lost to the surprising Lakers and to the champion Cavaliers but have looked solid in their 3 wins.
The table is set, now let’s see whether a chef has the recipe to take down Superman.
With that, SCS offers up our Game Day Countdown:
Next: Atlanta Hawks Off Season Moves
Nov 2, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard (8) reacts to a play with guard Kyle Korver (26) in the first quarter of their game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Round 2: Isaia Cordinier (44)
- Dwight Howard 3-year $70.5M exits Rockets
- Malcolm Delaney 2-years $1.49M
- Jarrett Jack agrees to 1-year minimum deal
- Kent Bazemore 4-year, $70M
- Mike Muscala (Hawks exercised option)
- Kris Humphries returns on a 1-year $4M deal
- Dennis Schroder Hawks negotiated a rookie contract extension
Next: Starting Line-ups
Oct 31, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks bench players react with the players in the game during a time out against the Sacramento Kings during the second half at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Kings 106-95. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Houston Rockets Starting 5:
(stats from 2015-16)
Atlanta Hawks Starting 5:
Point Guard: Dennis Schroder – 11 points, 4.4 assists, 2.6 rebounds
Shooting Guard: Kyle Korver – 9.2 points, 2.1 assists, 3.3 rebounds
Small Forward: Kent Bazemore – 11.6 points, 2.3 assists, 5.1 rebounds
Power Forward: Paul Millsap – 17.1 points, 3.3 assists, 9.0 rebounds
Center: Dwight Howard – 13.7points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.6 blocks
Next: The Benches
Oct 27, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (10) shoots and scores a basket against the Washington Wizards during the second half at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Wizards 114-99. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Houston Rockets Bench:
- Corey Brewer – 2016 SCS Brewer preview
- Sam Dekker – 2016 SCS Dekker preview
- Kyle Wiltjer – Get to know more about Wiltjer
- Nene Hilario – 2016 SCS Nene Preview
- Montrezl Harrell – 2016 SCS Harrell Preview
- Chinanu Onuaku – Analyzing the Rockets 37th pick
Atlanta Hawks Bench:
Guards: Malcolm Delaney, Thabo Sefolosha
Wings: Tim Hardaway Jr., DeAndre’ Bembry, Taurean Prince, Mike Scott
Bigs: Mike Muscala, Kris Humphries, Tiago Splitter, Walter “Edy” Tavares
Next: Game Particulars
Oct 31, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Kent Bazemore (24) is defended by Sacramento Kings forward Matt Barnes (22) during the second half at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Kings 106-95. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
- Patrick Beverley – rotoworld reports Beverley is ahead of schedule following the knee scope and anticipates a mid November return.
- Nene Hilario was held out Wednesday in New York for rest, but is expected to return to action today
- Mike Scott – knee, will be out 4 weeks as he undergoes non-surgical procedures to deal with a sore left knee. Targeting a December return
- Tiago Splitter – hamstring, targeting mid November return
Philips Arena, Atlanta.
Radio and Television Providers:
In Houston and Area: Root Sports
Worldwide: NBA League Pass
Radio: 790 AM and 99.1 FM, 850 AM (Spanish)
Game Time: 6:30 PM CT and 7:30 PM EST
Next time Hawks play Rockets it will be Thursday February 02 at Toyota Center (7PM CT)
Next: Keys to Winning
Dec 29, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) moves the ball as Atlanta Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha (25) defends during the third quarter at Toyota Center. The Hawks defeated the Rockets 121-115. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Keys For Rockets:
Fresh legs vs. tired legs: The Rockets haven’t won in Atlanta for their past 3 visits or vs the Hawks in 5 tries. Given Atlanta played last night while the Rockets have been resting since their win in New York they should have the advantage. Therefore Houston should push the pace to take advantage of their fresher legs.
Defense vs. Offense: Although the Hawks rank second defensively that may be a bit of a misnomer given the small sample size. Atlanta finished last season strong defensively, but they are culpable specifically against their bench which lacks depth.
Under rated Millsap: Granted the focus will be on Dwight Howard, however the Rockets need to pay particular attention to another front court player. Paul Millsap could light up Ryan Anderson especially if he defends like has to this point in the season. Not cited frequently enough Millsap is a strong defender who could own Anderson on both ends. D’Antoni should keep his rotations crisp and frequent to push Millsap.
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Harden versus Howard: Let’s face it this is the battle everyone will be tuning in to see. Will ‘the Beard’ light up Howard in the paint or will Superman amp up his defense to protect the paint and own the boards. Notably Howard has tended to have strong showings versus former teams:
- Hist first game against the Orlando Magic occurred December 2, 2012. In it Howard scored 21 points and grabbed15 rebounds.
- Howard’s first game versus Lakers in 2013-14 found him scoring 15 points adding 14 rebounds, 2 assists and a block.
- In his return to the Staples Center (February 19, 2014) to face Mike D’Antoni and his Lakers Howard was more demonstrative scoring 20 points, grabbing 13 rebounds (6 offensive), an assist, 2 steals and 3 blocks.
Ultimately the Rockets may want to let Howard get his opting to focus on locking down the rest of the Hawks. Then again both James Harden and Mike D’Antoni have a history with Howard, so they may not be willing to concede anything.
Not to beat a dead horse but Houston definitely have the advantage of rested legs, but they can’t afford to get out to a slow start and give the Hawks any confidence.
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