Atlanta Hawks vs. Houston Rockets Preview and Pick

Atlanta Hawks +6 (12-7) at Houston Rockets – 6 (13-8) O/U 195 8:30 PM ET Tuesday December 9, 2008
By Jason Green at

Tonight the Atlanta Hawks travel to the Lone Star State to play the Houston Rockets. After a hot start the Hawks have cooled off a tad, but are 6-4 in their last 10 games and in 2nd place in the Southeast Division 3 games back of the 1st place Magic. The Rockets were supposed to challenge for the Western Conference title this year, with the addition of Ron Artest, and even though they are tied for 1st place in the Southwest Division they still have the same problem they have had in the past few years, which is staying healthy and keeping their stars, especially Tracy McGrady, on the court.

This season the Rockets are 6-3 at home and the Hawks are 5-6 in away games.

Basketball bookies have the Rockets as 6-point favorites with a total around 195. The Rockets are posted at -330 as home favorites and the Hawks are posted at +250 as away dogs.


The Rockets come into this game after an embarrassing loss to the weak Memphis Grizzlies 109-97. The high scorers for the Rockets in that game were Luis Scola and Rafer Alston, who both went for 16 points. Even in the loss the Rockets shot the rock well going 35/72 from the floor for a FG% of 48.6%. On defense the Rockets took the night off allowing the Grizzlies to shoot 39/76 from the floor for a FG% of 51.3%.

The Hawks come into this game after losing to the Dallas Mavericks 100-98 on Friday night. The high scorer for the Hawks in that game was Joe Johnson going for 32 points on 12/22 shooting. For the game the Hawks shot 34/75 from the floor for a FG% of 45.3%. On defense the Hawks allowed the Mavericks to shoot 40/84 from the floor for a FG% of 47.6%.

This season the Hawks rank 14th in the league in scoring (98.6) and the Rockets rank 21st (96.6 ppg). The Hawks are one of the better 3 point shooting teams in the league with a 3-pt FG% of 40%. On defense the Rockets are legit, ranking 3rd in the NBA (92.3 ppg), while the Hawks rank 13th (97.1 ppg). The Rockets are better on the glass having a rebounding differential of +1.5 rpg, while the Hawks are at -.5.

This season the Rockets are 10-10 ATS and the Hawks are 10-9. In terms of Over/Under games the Rockets are 13-9 and the Hawks are 9-12-1.

On the injury front C Al Horford C and PG Acie Law are day-to-day for the Hawks and SF Ron Artest and SF Shane Battier are day-to-day and Tracy McGrady and Brent Barry are Out for the Rockets.

Same old song and dance for the Rockets, as injuries are killing them. In their last game they were without Ron Artest and Tracy McGrady and only dressed 10 players. Dude, if Artest, McGrady, and Yao Ming could stay on the court they would be a legit contender, but that has not happened this year or for the past few for Ming and McGrady. Ming and McGrady are about as durable as a Yugo on a road trip.

The Hawks were dominated by the Rockets last year going 0-2 and in those games shot a FG% of only 35.5%, which was their lowest percentage against any team in 2007-08.

For the Rockets to win this game short-handed they will have to play good perimeter defense on the Hawks, as Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, and Mike Bibby can really light it up from the outside.

Since McGrady, and maybe Artest, is out Yao Ming will have to pick up the scoring slack and Hawks C Al Horford will have to step up and play some D, but he is banged up having a sprained ankle.

The PG match up is key with Mike Bibby (16.2 ppg) going up against Rafer Alston (11.8 ppg). For the Hawks to win Bibby will have to stop Alston from scoring. If he can do that the Rockets will have limited scoring options.

If Artest can play tonight, which he should, his toughness will give the Rockets a big advantage, since they cannot outscore teams with leading scorer McGrady still out with a bum knee.

The Rockets have been in 1st place in the Southwest Division for most of the year, but now are tied for 1st with the New Orleans Hornets. The Rockets need to, at least, keep up with the Hornets until they are healthy, even though the healthy Rockets is a sort of oxymoron.

Jason’s Pick: I like Atlanta to get one on the road here.