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Houston Rockets vs. Atlanta Hawks game preview

Houston looks to get above .500 again when the Atlanta Hawks come to town.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

One Step Forward, One Step Back: The Story of the 2015-16 Houston Rockets.

No one would watch that movie. Heck, it's been hell watching the real thing. The frustrations are countless. How does a team that held the Spurs to 84 points turn around and hemorrhage points to an inferior (to the Spurs, certainly) Pelicans squad? How does a team score 108 points and still lose? How does a team up 11 with 2 minutes to go in the half go into halftime down 1? How does a coach not understand that Trevor Ariza cannot guard Anthony Davis?

The Houston Rockets, with the exception of Clint Capela, are a veteran team. Everyone else on the squad has at least 3 years of experience. Every single player in the rotation has playoff experience. They know what it takes to win.

If it was a matter of talent, we could all sit back and say, "Yeah, this team isn't good enough. We know mediocre teams from 3 years in a row of having the 9 seed and this team has a similar talent level." Except that's not the case. Houston should be a top 4 team in the West. It's probably too late for that, but this team still has a chance to prove that they're worthy of something.

In the meantime, they're playing an Atlanta Hawks team that started slowly but is now the second seed in the East. They were on a 6-game winning streak and averaging 112 points per game during this stretch. Then they went into Indiana and laid an egg.

As always, there were a few bright spots for the Hawks. Paul Millsap and Thabo Sefolosha had solid games. Al Horford had a double-double, and Jeff Teague overcame a bad shooting night by getting to the line 14 times.

You know Kyle Korver won't go 0-8 from 3 again. Teague will make more shots. Ditto for Dennis Schroder. The crazy thing is that despite multiple players having awful games, the Hawks only lost by 6 on the road.

Both matchups between these teams were highly contested last season. Atlanta swept the games, but Houston fans debated the fairness of calls late in both games. In the first game, Houston had just acquired Corey Brewer but the trade had not been ruled official. In the second matchup the Rockets were without James Harden due a one-game suspension for kicking at LeBron James. In that game, Atlanta got to the free throw line 21 times to Houston's nine.

Tonight's game means a lot to both teams. For both, it's a chance to get back on track after losing close road games. For Houston, it's the chance to get back above .500 one last time before the new year, since they only have one last game in 2015 after this one.

Tip-off is at 7pm CST on Root Sports.

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