NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Monday, December 31st (All times Eastern)
Atlanta Hawks (19-9) at Houston Rockets (16-14), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Atlanta Hawks carry a four-game winning streak into the last night of 2012 when they visit the Toyota Center to take on the Houston Rockets.
Three of Atlanta's four victories during this run came at home. After a Friday night road victory in Cleveland against the Cavaliers, the Hawks dispatched the Indiana Pacers, 109-100.
Without star forward Josh Smith (sore hip) and starting guard Devin Harris (sore left foot), six Hawks scored in double-figures, led by 21 from Lou Williams. He handed out a career-high 12 assists for the first double-double of his career.
"I think guys made shots early. We had the ball flying around and I just think we got off to a great start," said Williams. "Guys were just making shots for me and it happened."
If you're looking for a reason for the Hawks recent success, look no further than Williams. He has started the last four games and all four turned out to be victories.
Saturday's win against the Pacers was made even more impressive by the fact that Indiana came into the game as one of the top defensive teams in the league. The Pacers rank second in opponents' scoring and first in opponents' field-goal percentage.
The Hawks scored 109, which is 19 points higher than the Pacers give up on average, and shot 55 percent from the field, which was 14 percent better than Indiana's average.
The Rockets head into Monday night's New Year's Eve tilt the losers of two straight. They had won five in a row prior to this slide, which came against two of the NBA's best - the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder.
Saturday night's defeat to the Thunder was brutal. The Rockets fell 124-94 to the Thunder for Houston's most-lopsided setback of the season.
"We kind of gave in, I thought," said head coach Kevin McHale. "We had a hard time generating energy. I don't know when it's become such a big deal to play four games in five night, but evidently...
"Come on. We're not laying brick in 110 degrees, we're playing basketball. Everybody's played basketball when they've been a little bit tired. You've got to push through it."
The old-school Hall of Famer clearly wasn't happy with his team's effort. The Thunder took a 68-50 lead into halftimes and it didn't get much better in the second half. Oklahoma City won the third quarter by four and the final frame by eight.
During this two-game slide, the Rockets have allowed 123 ppg. They are the third-leading scoring team in the NBA, behind only, wait for it, the Thunder and Spurs. The difference is, those two teams rank in the top 15 in opponents' scoring, while Houston is 29th.
The Hawks, who begin a three-game road trip Monday night, fell at home to the Rockets on Nov. 2, 109-102. Houston has won its last four against Atlanta.
12/31 10:31:10 ET