So much for a tough week.
The Hawks have breezed to a 3-0 record this week with quality wins over the Bulls, Cavaliers and Rockets. The latest was Saturday’s 104-97 victory over the Rockets in Houston. The Rockets had won the previous 19 games against Eastern Conference opponents on their home court.
The Hawks (19-7) have won 12 of their past 13 games.
Kyle Korver led the Hawks with 22 points, including a key 3-pointer with 1:29 remaining and four record-breaking free throws. The Hawks also got 14 points each from Al Horford and Paul Millsap and 13 points from DeMarre Carroll.
Here are my five observations from the game:
1. The Hawks started fast with a strong first half. They led 32-26 after one quarter and 52-40 at the half. The Hawks shot 51 percent from the field through the first two quarters while the Rockets shot just 29 percent. The Hawks led by as many as 16 points in the second quarter. Key to the early success was the defensive job done on Rockets star James Harden, who entered as the NBA’s leading scorer. Harden went 0-for-7 from the field and had just four points. The Hawks used 10 players in the first half and all of them scored. They had 16 assists on their 22 baskets. The first half would be the difference in the game.
The Hawks had the early success despite some foul trouble. Paul Millsap picked up two fouls at the 7:30 mark on the first quarter and Pero Antic had two fouls with 58 seconds remaining in the quarter.
2. The Rockets came storming back in the third quarter and tied the game, 74-74, by the time the period was over. The Rockets had runs of 9-0 and 8-0 in the quarter and finished by outscoring the Hawks 20-7. Harden didn’t stay quiet for long. He hit a 3-pointer to start the third quarter and finished the period with 10 points. He finished the game with 18 points. The Rockets used the 3-point shot in the comeback. They shot 43 3-pointers in the game, making 15.
3. The Hawks needed to make plays in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. They did just that. With the score tied 90-90, Millsap hit a bucket underneath, over Dwight Howard, with 1:59 left. That was followed by a deep 3-pointer from Korver with 1:29 left. The Hawks grabbed a five-point lead and pushed the lead to as many as seven down the stretch.
4. Korver owns another Hawks record for his shooting.
The guard set the franchise record for consecutive free throws at 49. Korver set the mark with four free throws in the final seconds. He broke the mark of 47 set by Tom McMillen in 1978-79. The streak of 49 straight is also a personal best for Korver.
The third free throw was also the 1,000th of his career.
Korver entered the game second in the NBA in free-throw percentage. He has just two misses from the line, making 52 of 54 this season. His last miss was Nov. 7 at the Hornets.
5. The Hawks got another strong game from their point guard – even has Jeff Teague was on the bench in street clothes nursing a strained left hamstring. Dennis Schroder started and eight points and six assists. Shelvin Mack added nine points and four assists. In the two games without Teague, the two have combined to average 25.5 points and 11.5 assists.