The Houston Rockets continued their inexplicable struggles against lottery teams, blowing a 23-point lead to let the Atlanta Hawks back in it, but some great hustle by P.J. Tucker and some clutch plays down the stretch from Clint Capela and Eric Gordon kept them in front, and they survived an upset scare by edging the Hawks 122-115.
James Harden led the way with another 40-point triple double, going for 41 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocks, but he was incredibly inefficient and downright ugly-looking at times in the second half. He finished just 9-34 from the field and 4-20 from the three-point line, often looking way off with his shot, but he did make up for it by going 19-23 from the line.
P.J. Tucker on the hand, made up for it by being 100-percent hustle, and he finished the game with 8 points, 17 rebounds, 1 block, and 1 assist, and he grabbed several clutch boards in the fourth to help hold back the Atlanta rally.
Clint Capela had a monster night, going for 22 points, 22 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks, and he too grabbed several key boards, took a clutch charge, and went 9-14 from the field.
Eric Gordon looks to be rounding back into form in just his fourth (good catch!) game back from injury, as he went for 17 points. And though he was just 3-9 from deep, he hit a clutch triple with the game tight late in the fourth to essentially make the deficit a bit too big for the Hawks.
Despite looking sloppy on defense at times and also letting Trae Young go for a 40-point triple double of his own (42-13-10), overall they held Atlanta to just 36.8 percent shooting from the field to move to 15-1 on the year when holding opponents to under 45 percent shooting and 4-0 when holding them to under 40 percent.
In addition to Young’s big effort, the Hawks also got 17 points, 14 rebounds, and 4 blocks from John Collins, 14 points, and 10 boards from Alex Len, and 11 from Kevin Huerter.
The Rockets now move to 25-11 on the season and will return to action tomorrow night against former teammate Chris Paul and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Russell Westbrook, who sat tonight, will be back in action for his return to OKC. The Rockets should be in good shape, though, because the Thunder aren’t a lottery team right now, so hopefully the real Rockets show up. These mental lapses against inferior teams almost came back to bite them again tonight, and it’s an issue they need to keep working on.