The Houston Rockets journey to Philips Arena tonight for what should be a competitive game against the Atlanta Hawks. Atlanta is a way better team at home this year as evidenced by their recent win over the Indiana Pacers, who have the best record in the NBA, and their impressive 13-5 record on their home floor. However, tonight the Hawks will have their hands full in order to stop an explosive Houston team led by their two All-Stars James Harden and Dwight Howard. Harden has been as hot as a firecracker lately averaging an unbelievable 37.7 points per game over the course of the last three games for the Rockets. His partner in crime, Howard, is having quite the year as well putting up an impressive 17.8 points and 12.9 rebounds per game.
Atlanta will need everyone to step up tonight on both ends of the floor in order to defeat the Rockets. Houston brings a fast-paced style of play to Atlanta, and if the Hawks are not ready for it, the team could easily be run out of their own building. The Rockets have the No.3 ranked offense in terms of points per game at 105.8 which means the Hawks cannot afford to under-perform on the defensive side of the ball in order to achieve victory. One player for the Hawks who could have a huge impact on the game tonight is DeMarre Carroll. If the Hawks decide to match-up Carroll against Harden — which I believe coach Mike Budenholzer will do — then Carroll must be able to contain Harden on offense. If he allows Harden to get around the 37.7 points per game he’s been averaging lately, I don’t think Atlanta can pull out the win tonight without a miraculous performance of their own on the offensive side of the ball.
One glaring weakness of the Rockets that the Hawks could take advantage of tonight is their ability to play defense. Houston comes into the game giving up an average of 102.4 points per game which ranks the Rockets at 23rd in the league right now. Atlanta may not have Al Horford down low in order to attack the rim, but what the Hawks do have is an arsenal of great shooters from long range in order to exploit the defensive weakness of the Rockets. One player who can make a huge difference in the game tonight is Kyle Korver. The three-point specialist can easily turn the game in favor of the Hawks if he provides the team with one of his better performances on the season. However, Korver cannot be the only one to show up in tonight’s game. It will take a total team effort from both the starters and bench players to get the win against a tough Rockets team.