Preview of the Hawks vs. Rockets game on 12-31-12
The Atlanta Hawks will take on the Houston Rockets tonight on the road. This will be the first game of a back-to-back set for the Hawks. This will also be the first game of a three-game road trip for the Hawks. With a win tonight, the Hawks would improve to 20-9 on the season, 1-1 in the regular season series with the Rockets, 1-0 in their back-to-back set, and 1-0 on their road trip. The probable starters for the Hawks tonight are Jeff Teague and Louis Williams in the backcourt, Kyle Korver and Al Horford at the two forward positions, and Zaza Pachulia at center. Josh Smith (strained right hip flexor) is listed as a game-time decision. Devin Harris (sore left foot) and Anthony Morrow (right hip strain) are listed as doubtful. The Rockets can beat you in three different ways: scoring in the paint, three-pointers, and rebounding and getting out on the break. The Hawks really have to lock down defensively against a team so dominant and versatile offensively. The Rockets are third in the league in points per game, third in the league in points in the paint per game, first in the league in fastbreak points per game, second in the league in three-point makes per game, and Rockets' center Omer Asik ranks fifth in the league in rebounds per game. This team can do it all on the offensive end. I think there are a few keys to a win for the Hawks tonight. First off, Coach Larry Drew needs to keep Zaza in on Asik nearly the whole game. If he needs a breather every once in a while, Coach Drew should put Johan Petro on him. I am not very confident that Josh Smith will play, because he isn't listed in the probable starters. If he can, than Coach Drew will be able to rotate Al Horford on Asik also, because Smith will be there to guard Patrick Patterson. But, I do always believe you should prepare as if everyone on the other team's injury report can play, and no one on your injury report can play, so I say Pachulia (and Petro for Pachulia's breathers) on Asik. Secondly, the Hawks need to crash the boards so that the Rockets can't get out and run. Every Hawks' player needs to box out for the rebound. Thirdly, the Hawks have to take a similar approach to this team as they did in the 2011 playoffs against the Orlando Magic. In that series (if you don't remember), the Hawks let Jason Collins and Zaza Pachulia match up one-on-one with Dwight Howard. Then, all their backcourt players focused on not letting Howard pass the ball back out to a shooter, and if he did, then being there to contest the shot. Needless to say, the Hawks won that series. What needs to happen against the Rockets is that when Pachulia or Petro is on Asik, everyone else needs to be playing great off-ball defense on the perimeter players. If Asik does throw a good pass, whoever's guarding the man it was to needs to play great on-ball defense. If he can't pass the ball out, the Rockets will either have to call a timeout (they only have six), or they will get a three-seconds in the key, five-seconds back to the basket, shot clock violation, etc. If the Hawks can follow those three keys, I think they can get a W tonight on the road.
Game Time: 7pm E.T.
Radio: 680 The Fan, 98.9 The Bone