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Game 13 Preview - Rockets @ Hawks

Game 13









November 20, 2009

6:30 PM CST

Phillips Arena

Atlanta, GA

Aaron Brooks


Mike Bibby

Shane Battier


Joe Johnson

Trevor Ariza


Marivin Williams

Luis Scola


Josh Smith

Chuck Hayes


Al Horford

Carl Landry

Key Reserve

Jamal Crawford


Key Injuries


Tracy McGrady


Rockets Injury Report: Tracy McGrady (note may be in (gasp) uniform).

Hawks Injury Report: None.

The Loyal Opposition:

Predicted Result: Hawks by 4.  Atlanta has shown itself to be the best team in the NBA at present, and their once-moribund home court advantage might be the difference. That or their scary lineup.

Game Preview:

If Houston is one of the big surprises to some followers of the NBA (but not us), Atlanta is perhaps a bigger one.  Long-known as a team that could beat anyone when motivated (see Hawks-Celtics playoff series), Atlanta appears to have jumped to an elite level this season. 

The Hawks have the best record in the NBA, and it's not all lots of hot shooting nights from Joe Johnson (those help, though). The Hawks are playing tough D, and boast an NBA best adjusted point differentials/team strength rating (SRS), at a whopping +9.96.  The Rockets, by contrast are at +4.06, good, but not special.  Atlanta is allowing 98.8 points a game, and scoring 107.  Houston is allowing 99.8 points, and averaging 103 per game. 

The idea of the Weak East is dying a slow death with every Atlanta victory.

The numbers thus far favor the Hawks, but the Rockets can play anyone close, anywhere.  Let's go through the player matchups to see where the story might unfold.

Player Matchups:

PG: Mike Bibby vs Aaron Brooks

Advantage: Rockets

It may be unfair, but I've never found Bibby a convincing player somehow.  I don't think Bibby ever had the quickness to stay with Brooks, and he certainly doesn't have it now, 11 years into his career.  No Atlanta PG would seem to have an answer for Kyle Lowry or Aaron Brooks.

SG: Joe Johnson vs Trevor Ariza

Advantage: Hawks

If PG goes to the Rockets, SG goes to the Hawks.  Joe Johnson is lighting up the league, averaging 23.6 points, 4.7 assists and 5.3 boards a night.  Ariza is big, and fast, and might be able to frustrate Johnson into the sort of poor shooting nights he sometimes has.  Ariza had better, or Houston's chances take a significant hit.  Atlanta can bring in Crawford to make the defenders job still more miserable.

SF: Marvin William vs Shane Battier

Advantage: Rockets

Marvin Williams is a BIG SF, and that might pose problems for some other defenders, but I think Shane will be able to handle him.  He's averaging 9pts a game, and doesn't really shoot threes.  It's possible that Shane can focus more on his offense, or offer help on Johnson.  Williams, at this point, simply isn't frightening.  I don't see a big edge here, but the one I do see goes to Houston.

PF: Josh Smith vs Luis Scola

Advantage: Hawks

Josh Smith is living up to his potential, scoring, grabbing boards and playing with effort in the flow of the offense and defense.  His defense has gone from "somewhat indifferent" to "good".  It's possible the one of our PF platoon can frustrate Smith, and put up points (they always do) but I still give this battle to the Hawks. 

C: Al Horford vs Chuck Hayes

Advantage: Even

I think that Horford is exactly the sort of player The Chuckwagon can neutralize.  He might have more problems with Pachulia, if Zaza sees big minutes.  On the other hand, I don't see Chuck dominating the battle either.  Thus the draw rating.

Conclusion:  A good bench, and team playing very well together at home spells problems for Houston.  Atlanta has beaten Boston, Portland (twice), Denver and Miami.  They lost only to LA in LA, and to Charlotte, for some reason.