Game Preview: Houston Rockets vs Atlanta Hawks

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After Thursday's blowout win over the New York Knicks, the Rockets had a few nights off before playing in Atlanta for their third straight away game. Behind James Harden's stellar play, the Rockets have advanced to a 3-2 record and are aiming to improve that record tonight against the Dwight Howard led Hawks. So far on the season, the Rockets are fourth in offensive rating but only 28th in defensive rating.

The Atlanta Hawks opened the season winning three straight and having the NBA's best defense during that span, but they have come back down to earth a little bit over the last two games, a loss to the Lakers at home and a loss to the Washington Wizards. The Hawks are ranked 11th in offensive rating and tied for 2nd in defensive rating. The Hawks are led in scoring by Paul Millsap at 16.8 points per game, rebounds by Dwight Howard at 12 a game, and in assists by Dennis Schroder at 5.4 a game.

Starting Lineups

Rockets fans can expect more of the same from the Rockets, as they will likely be starting James Harden at point guard, Gordon at shooting guard, Ariza at small forward, Anderson at power forward, and Capela at center.

The Hawks went out with the plan to give their team a soft-reboot this off-season, they accomplished this by giving young point guard Dennis Schroder the reigns, sending former starter Jeff Teague off in a trade, and signing Dwight Howard away from the Rockets. After their off-season moves, the Hawks have been starting Schroder at point guard, knockdown shooter Kyle Korver at shooting guard, high energy and long armed Kent Bazemore at small forward, all around star Paul Millsap at power forward, and the man we all know and love, Dwight Howard at center.

Three Things to Watch

  • Reunion - After last season's dysfunction, Dwight Howard decided to opt for a change of scenery after 3 years in Houston. Tonight he faces his former teammates, who he didn't seem to see eye to eye with, and his old coach from LA, who he REALLY didn't see eye to eye with. It will be interesting to see how Dwight plays in a new environment and whether he looks like he's trying to prove something to the Rockets.

  • Harden's brilliance - James Harden has been astounding this season. Coming off of two games that saw him tally 71 points and 30 assists to only four turnovers, James Harden is fourth in the league in points per game and first in assists. Many will be watching to see if Harden can keep up this insane offensive production against an extremely stingy Hawks defense.

  • The young guns - Through the first 5 games the Rockets' collection of young talent has made a positive influence. Clint Capela (22), KJ McDaniels (23), Sam Dekker (22), and Montrezl Harrell (22) have all looked like solid rotation pieces even at their young age. If this can keep up, it would be huge for the Rockets, as young talent on cheap contracts can help fill out any roster and be nice trade chips, so whether or not they can sustain the solid play is something to keep an eye on.

Prediction and Tip-Off

I think Dwight will come at the Rockets hard, overpowering Capela and beating Nene with his athleticism on his way to a big game. I also expect Harden to keep riding his hot streak, especially against a former teammate who he may not be on the best of terms with. Between the two former teammates having huge games I think the Rockets will come out on top, moving to 4-2, as the Hawks are coming off of a back to back and have seen some struggles from their new starting point guard and Kent Bazemore early in the season.

Tip-off will be at 6:30 P.M. Central Time in the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia on Saturday, November 5th and will be televised on ROOT Sports, with the radio broadcast on Sports Talk 790-AM.

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