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Rockets can’t complete comeback as the Hawks take it 134-127

The win was up for grabs, but Houston couldn’t capitalize when it mattered most.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets fell to the Atlanta Hawks 134-127 in an extremely frustrating game full of missed opportunities. This one got pretty ugly out of the gates as Atlanta sprinted to a 39-29 first quarter lead in large part to eight made threes.

It looked like the Rockets were going to be in for a long night as the Hawks followed up the 39 point first with a 38 point second quarter. Only a 36 point quarter on Houston’s end kept the game within reach. Giving up 78 points in a half is abysmal. This was certainly not the defensive performance we’ve come to expect from Houston this season.

Concerns over Jalen Green’s early season play weren’t really answered in this one, but at the very least he came out more aggressive tonight. It was yet another rough shooting night for JG — 16 points on 7-for-19 from the floor — as he’s still due for a true breakout stretch of games.

Alperen Sengun didn’t really have as stellar of a game as he’s capable of having either. While he provided 14 points 9 rebounds and 5 assists, he was limited to just 27 minutes of action tonight as Trae Young was repeatedly able to exploit his match up with either of the Hawks big men diving to the rim.

Regardless, I shouldn’t act like it was all doom and gloom from the Rockets tonight. Jabari Smith Jr. went for a career-high 34 points while also accumulating 13 rebounds and 4 blocks. He was nearly perfect from the field at one point in the game before he missed some jumpers in the fourth quarter. However, he was perfect from the free throw line as he connected on all 14 of his attempts.

Fred VanVleet also looked worthy of the large contract he received this offseason, tallying 32 points and 15 assists. Even the Hawks broadcast that I watched marveled at the 10 assists he posted in the first half alone. The duo of VanVleet and Smith intrigued me tonight, and I hope that this game will turn into a building block as the former looks to get the latter more integrated in the offense.

Houston’s best moments came after halftime as they surged into a narrow lead, coincidentally after Dillon Brooks and Young both got into foul trouble. However, our two point advantage going into the fourth quarter was short lived as Atlanta went on a quick 9-0 run.

Onyeka Okongwu looked like the difference maker out there to start the quarter as he repeatedly got easy looks at the rim. Ime Udoka really had no choice but to bench Sengun with all things considered.

With the lead pushed to a 16 point advantage in Atlanta’s favor, the Rockets shifted to a smaller lineup with Jabari at Center and it looked like another comeback had legs. Unfortunately, it was a story of too little too late. Houston couldn’t get the one-to-two stops or the one-to-two buckets they really needed to bridge the gap once more.

This game also marked the second return for Amen Thompson, but his impact was limited in his 8 minutes of play. It’s also safe to say that there was a lack of punch off the bench with Tari Eason sitting this one out.

It’s performances like these that almost make me wish it was just a blowout with zero fake comebacks or glimmers of hope, but in an effort to be glass half full, at least they didn’t give up.

The home winning streak is over, but the Rockets get a chance to start a new one this Friday versus the Dallas Mavericks. See you there!