Rockets seek to extend streak vs. Hawks

NBA
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The Houston Rockets begin their two-game road trip on Wednesday at Atlanta, having won the past five meetings against the Hawks.

That’s one shy of matching the franchise’s longest winning streak against Atlanta. Houston has won two straight games in Atlanta after losing six of the previous eight there.

The Rockets clobbered the young Hawks 158-111 on Nov. 30 in Houston, a game best-remembered by James Harden’s 60-point effort. Harden didn’t even play in the fourth quarter and still wound up with the fourth 60-point game of his career. Houston shot 58.4 percent and hit 25 3-pointers that night.

That game was forgettable for Atlanta. It was the second night of a back-to-back and came on the heels of an overtime loss to the Indiana Pacers. The 158 points allowed are the most by the club all season. The lopsided decision also was the final setback in a 10-game losing streak, after which the team recovered to win two of its next three.

Atlanta has won two of four since enduring a second 10-game losing streak. The Hawks dropped a 123-115 decision to the Denver Nuggets on Monday, a game that was within two points as late as 4:25 left.

The Hawks continue to be led by guard Trae Young, who totaled 29 points and 12 assists against Denver to garner his 11th double-double of the season. Young scored 37 against the Rockets in that lopsided loss in November.

Atlanta has also let Kevin Huerter’s role continue to grow. The second-year guard, who has dealt with a left rotator cuff strain and ongoing back soreness, scored 22 on Monday. He scored a career-high 26 points in the previous game against Indiana and is averaging 21 over the last four games.

The Rockets have not played since Jan. 3 against the Philadelphia 76ers. Harden had a triple-double in the 118-108 win over the Sixers, totaling 44 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. It was his first triple-double of the season and the 43rd of his career — tied for eighth all-time.

“He just understands the game, sees it and knows where he wants them,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said. “They stay out, he throws a lob. They come in, he throws that. He’s got that little runner, his 3s are all over the place. I mean, he’s really good. He’s one of the best ever.”

Harden is averaging 25.9 points in 18 career games against Atlanta. Overall this season. Harden is averaging 38.4 points, 7.6 assists and 6.0 rebounds. He has shot 50 percent or better in a career-high seven straight games.

Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce said, “We try to do what we have to do against James, which is throw a lot of bodies at him. Try and put him under duress.”

Harden is so dominant that the contributions of Clint Capela are sometimes overlooked. Capela fell a point shy of his career high against the 76ers, scoring a season-best 30 points and adding 14 rebounds. He averages 14.5 points and 14.2 rebounds.

The Rockets will play without Russell Westbrook, who will take a scheduled off day. This will be the fifth game that the veteran guard has taken off for rest.

–Field Level Media

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