Going into Wednesday night, the Rockets had already lost James Harden against the Hawks. They hadn't even made it halfway through the first quarter when they lost another guard for the night, as Jeremy Lin got knocked out the game with a knee injury. However, as Aaron Brooks and Francisco Garcia stepped up with 21 points each off the bench, the Rockets rolled past the Atlanta Hawks to the tune of 113-84.
The Rockets hit 14 of 27 three point shots, and outrebounded the Hawks 42-32 in an all-around dominant performance. Six different Rockets hit double figures scoring, and Patrick Beverley, who had just 7 points, helped shut down the athletic Hawks point guards to 2 of 10 shooting from the floor.
Let's look a little more deeply at this performance, digging deeper into this impressive win by the Rockets.
Garcia and Brooks lead the way
Last February, both Aaron Brooks and Francisco Garcia were with the Kings, with Garcia getting minutes as a reserve and Brooks typically glued to bench. With Garcia's trade to the Rockets and Brooks' buyout and subsequent signing, both ended up on the Rockets last year and decided to re-up for another season with the team.
Tonight, they justified Morey's faith in them, with both scoring 21 off the bench as the Rockets bench annihilated the Hawks, outscoring them 67-32. Garcia was essentially a starter after the Lin injury, and he stepped in masterfully, creating much more offense for himself and seeming more confident that he has been in the past.
This has not been Garcia's strongest season, but he has an immense track record of hitting shots, and tonight indicated that he might reverse this season's tough shooting in the near future. If he can get going again, it'll go a long way towards alleviating fears about the Rockets' wing depth.
With 10 seconds left in the second quarter, the Rockets had the ball and the Hawks opted to foul Omer Asik and put him at the line. Asik stepped up to the line and hit one out of two free throws. The Hawks got the ball back and Al Horford hit a layup with just one second, bringing the Hawks within 11 at halftime.
When people talk about the "Hack-a-Howard" or "Hack-an-Asik" strategy, they typically mention how if the free throw shooter can make just one out of two free throws, it's a good proposition for the team being fouled because one free throw is 1 point per possession, above the average for any team. However, in this situation, even if the Hawks expected Asik to make one out of two, they still on average come out ahead.
The time left on the clock is what makes that foul worth it. If they don't foul and let the Rockets run their set and don't get another shot off, the Rockets can expect to get maybe .8 PPP, a figure that is less than their average because they sacrifice getting as good of a shot by taking the game clock down. The Hawks in this situation get 0 points.
However with the foul, if Asik can be expected to yield 1.2 PPP for the Rockets, and the Hawks can expect to get .8 PPP themselves, the Hawks are improving their outlook. Instead of expecting to lose .8 points in the last 10 seconds of the half, they expect to lose just .4 points. In this case, they actually come out ahead, as they turned one Asik free throw into two points on the other end.
The hacking strategy rarely makes sense, but in this case, it was a stroke of brilliance for the Hawks.
Terrence Jones continues to impress
Terrence Jones was limited with foul trouble tonight, but in his 24 minutes, he continued his impressive first few games as a starter, scoring 14 points and adding a number of highlight plays to his resume. In perhaps the most exciting moment of the night, Jones swatted a Gustavo Ayon shot attempt, then raced up the floor and threw down an emphatic alley-oop from Chandler Parsons.
Here's the video of that:
When the Rockets decided to take Omer Asik out of the starting lineup, they were taking a big gamble on Terrence Jones' upside. Thus far, he has shown little signs of slowing down and seems to be improving by the game. Tonight, he showed that he can be a two-way force against opposing teams, using his immense athleticism on both sides of the ball.
On the offensive end of the court, he made a few jumpers early, forcing the Hawks to respect him from distance, and when they came out on him, he pump-faked his way into easy shots at the rim. If he can continue to harness his combination of athleticism, ball-handling, and shooting, he is going to be a very scary weapon for the Rockets at power forward.
The Rockets play the Nets on Friday in Houston. Until then, enjoy your Thanksgiving! I know I'm thankful for all of you!
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