Atlanta Hawks at Houston Rockets Preview
The struggling Atlanta Hawks (4-15) will travel to Houston for a matchup against the Rockets (12-6) in the Hawk’s second game of a back-to-back on Saturday night. Atlanta is sitting just above the New York Knicks in the no. 14 spot in the Eastern Conference and don’t seem like they’re going to be able to pull themselves out of their current slide. Their franchise point guard Trae Young has done everything he can do for his team, but he’s oftentimes left carving up a defense to the tune of a 30-point performance, only to lose.
The Rockets haven’t made significant waves in the win column, but they’ve been solid. They’re going to have to tune up their defense to be seen as a legitimate contender, but in all honesty, as long as James Harden is suiting up for their team and they keep the floor spread with shooters they will continue to stay in the mix. This matchup should be a fairly easy one for them.
Time: 8 PM ET
Arena: Toyota Center, Houston, TX
Channel: ATTSN-SW, FSSE-ATL
Hawks: Kevin Huerter (O)
Rockets: Clint Capela (Q), Eric Gordon (O), Gerald Green (O), Nene Hilario (O)
Atlanta Hawks Starting Lineup
The Hawks come into this matchup after a tough overtime loss to the Pacers on Friday 105-104. Atlanta led by as many as 18 points in the game but couldn’t get anything going in the third quarter, scoring only 11 in the frame.
Young’s career-high 49 points couldn’t prevent the Hawks from dropping their ninth straight game. Young shot 16-for-28 from the field and drilled eight of 15 shots from deep.
DeAndre’ Bembry and Alex Len both added 15 points apiece but Young needed more help from his teammates when it mattered most and he just didn’t get it.
Atlanta could not hold onto the basketball. They turned the ball over 24 times with only 14 assists to show for their playmaking efforts. Turnovers have been a struggle for the Hawks all season long. They average 18.1 turnovers per game, the second-most of any team in the league. Nothing about this season, except for Young’s emergence has gone according to plan in Atlanta. They are no. 25 in defense, no. 27 in offense and have a net rating of minus-9.2 (second-worst in the league). I mean, just terrible. The Hawks aren’t going to right this ship any time soon. Their roster is composed of players that aren’t known for being strong defenders and rookies, who are also, yep you guessed it, not good on defense.
Houston Rockets Starting Lineup
The Houston Rockets were last seen in action on Wednesday when they won 117-108 against Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat. The Rockets led by as many as 25 and they used a 39-point second quarter to pull away, never ceding control to the Heat. Houston shot 46.3 percent from the field, 34.1 percent from the 3-point line and 78.8 percent on their 33 attempts from the free-throw line. They struggled with their passing efficiency, recording 15 turnovers to 19 assists.
Harden had 34 points six rebounds and five assists on seven made 3s, and 9-for-10 shooting from the free-throw line. Russell Westbrook scored 27 points on an efficient 11-for-21 shooting night. He also chipped in nine rebounds and seven assists but turned the ball over nine times. Danuel House Jr., the Rockets 3-and-D wing scored a career-high 23 points in the contest on 7-for-11 shooting.
“When those two guys get going downhill it puts a lot of pressure on a lot of people which causes me to be open,” House said.
The Rockets have had an interesting season so far. They have the fourth-best record in the Western Conference, the third-best offense in the league and a net rating of plus-3.3 (not too bad), but their defense is a cause for concern. As of right now per NBA advanced stats, the Rockets have the no. 17 defense in the league. That’s a continued slide from where they were two seasons ago when they finished the 2017-18 season with the seventh-best defense in the league and won 65 games. The personnel is different. Chris Paul is a better defender than Westbrook (stop reaching Russ!) and the entire defensive scheme for Houston has changed for the worse.
If the Rockets want to be seen as a legitimate threat going forward their two superstars have to play better defense. They are going into a game against a team in the Hawks that is fifth in the league in drives per game (49.7) and eighth in points off those drives (27.1). Containing penetration will be key.
Key Player Matchups
Russell Westbrook vs. Trae Young
Russ’ fit into the Rockets system hasn’t been as clunky as I originally thought it would be. He brings a dynamic to the team that makes them unpredictable–sometimes in a bad way, sometimes in a good way–but it’s fine. Russ is the type of player whose flaws–like the 22.5 percent he is shooting on his 5.6 3-point attempts per game–just need to be accepted. Because with the bad comes the good, like the 22.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 6.8 assists he averages on the season. His matchup, the fire-breathing Young, is destroying defenders this season. When comparing them side-by-side Young edges out Westbrook in just about every counting metric. The second-year man is averaging 26.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 8.6 assists. He’s also shooting 36.1 percent on 3-pointers on 8.5 attempts and 83.6 percent from the free-throw line on 7.2 attempts per game. This will be an entertaining one.
James Harden vs. De’Andre Hunter
Ok, I know. This isn’t fair. But, it doesn’t matter who the matchup is, the chances are it’s going to be unfair. I decided to go with who I believe coach Llyod Pierce will deploy to guard Harden. The thing is Harden has been seeing two-three defenders at a single time in a lot of games this season. He’s seeing a double team as soon as he crosses halfcourt and always has a guy in his jersey. Hunter will merely serve as the primary defender on a guy who someway, somehow has taken another leap in production this season. I’m not a fan of the way he does it, but there is no denying the effectiveness of what Harden does to manufacture offense. He’s averaging a near inconceivable 37.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 7.8 assists. Adding to that, he averages 13.9 attempts from both the free-throw and 3-point line. My prediction for this one? Harden drops 45 and attempts 20 shots from beyond the arc.
As is the case in 99 percent of Rockets games in which Harden suits up, he is your top pickup for this matchup. Harden is available for $11.5k on FanDuel and he’s projected for 58 fantasy points on the night. He is a fantasy wizard, who you can always count on for production. The other Houston Rocket who is a safe bet for big fantasy numbers is Westbrook. The point guard is available for a salary of $9k with projections for 47.4 points.
The Hawks rely very heavily on their point guard Young, which has been tough for their regular season but has paid dividends for fantasy owners. Young is going for $9.8k on FanDuel with fantasy projections for 39.7. He’s a safe bet for points, assists, and 3-pointers. The player who has stepped up the most for the Hawks during John Collins suspension has been Jabari Parker, who has been playing very well. He’s also become a solid fantasy pickup on any given night. He’s available for a salary of $7.4k with projections for 33.6.
Bet on Matchup
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