Despite leading by 20 with 8 minutes left to play, the Rockets lost to the Hawks 113-108. There is no getting by this one. The Rockets BLEW this game that they were in control of for most of the second half.
The first half was back-and-forth for the most part. Houston had a late run in the first quarter to pull ahead, thanks to James Harden and Clint Capela, but the lead never got to double digits and the Rockets only had a three point lead at halftime. Capela and Harden were clicking to begin the game, and they combined to score 27 of the Rockets’ 32 points in the quarter. Atlanta’s first half was highlighted by turnovers, as they committed so many. Yet their defense allowed them to stay in the game and keep it close.
James came out in the third quarter very hot, scoring eight in the first two minutes. His 18-point quarter had the Rockets up 13 and this game looked to be over, especially when the Rockets increased their lead to twenty with eight minutes to go.
I should stop the recap right here because this was when the Rockets stopped functioning, but for the sake of Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Dwight Howard, I will continue it, because they deserve kudos for outstanding performances tonight.
Hardaway entered the fourth quarter with ten points, but ended the fourth with a career-high 33. The Rockets simply had no answer for him down the stretch. Dwight played like the center we looked to sign 3 years ago, and he exploded for 24 points and 23 rebounds. He clearly wanted to make a statement tonight, and a statement he made.
This turnaround happened so quickly and the Rockets should be embarrassed. It would have been fantastic to beat D12 in his return to Houston, but they blew such a big lead so late! Their lead disappeared in an instant, and when they realized they lost their lead, it was too late. With this win, the Hawks clinch the season series and they continue their win streak over the Rockets, which now stands at eight consecutive games.
A loss like this sucks. There is no way around that. This was a game they should have won, and they beat themselves tonight. However, losses like these also allow a team to retool and fix issues that were not there. With the exception of Capela and Harden, the team was terrible at shooting. Trevor Ariza was 1-12, Sam Dekker shot 1-5, and Ryan Anderson only made 4 of his 12 shots. They need to be able to take better shots, and hit their wide open looks. They were also outrebounded 56-38, an appalling statistic.
Had the Rockets coasted to a win tonight, it would have been an ordinary win to pad their lead for third in the West. However, this loss is going to sting for a while. This team will make sure that they don’t do something like this again, and it might even strengthen this team by the time when you cannot afford to lose in April, May, and June.
For now, the Rockets have to put this loss behind them and look to tomorrow night as the Bulls come to Toyota Center. Tipoff is at 7 PM CT.