Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith (5) has his shot blocked from behind by Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin (7) as center Omer Asik (3) watches during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, in Houston. (AP Photo/Bob Levey)

Hawks vs Rockets: Full Game Report

Quick Facts

Who?: Atlanta Hawks (19-10) at Houston Rockets (17-14)

What?: Rockets win 109-102, snap Hawks’ four-game win streak

Where?: Toyota Center (Houston, TX)

When?: Monday, Dec. 31, 2012 at 7:00 PM (ET)

How?: Lights out shooting

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Recap

The Houston Rockets ended 2012 with a bang as bench player Carlos Delfino scored 22 points and matched a season-high with six 3-pointers in a lopsided affair that ended with Houston shooting past the Atlanta Hawks 123-104 on New Year’s Eve night.

The Rockets were unconscious from the perimeter shooting 55.2% (16-of-29) overall and had seven different players drain a 3-pointer in the game. Houston is just the second team this season to shoot better than 50% in a game against Atlanta (Miami Heat – 12/10/12).

James Harden led Houston with a game-high 28 points and was phenomenal at getting to the free-throw line with ease as he drew fouls on the hacking Hawks all night long. He did an even better job at capitalizing on the situation by sinking 12-of-13 foul-shots.

Rockets center Omer Asik had his second-best rebounding night of his career, pulling down 17 boards in the game (all defensive) to go along with 11 points. His best night corralling caroms came on opening day this season against the Hawks in Atlanta when he got 19.

Overnight sensation Jeremy Lin had a solid game for Houston chipping in with 16 points, eight assists, four rebounds, four steals and two blocked shots. Teammates Marcus Morris (15) and Toney Douglas (10) were also in double figures.

The Rockets obliterated the Hawks in the second quarter as they shot 67% and outscored Atlanta 38-19 en route to a 64-46 halftime lead.

The Hawks cut the deficit down to 72-64 with 6:27 left in the third but couldn’t sustain the comeback as Houston broke out from an 18-11 run to end the period.

Somehow in the fourth quarter, Atlanta managed to come as close as 102-97 with 5:22 remaining in regulation, but again couldn’t get over the hump as Houston put the game away with a 21-7 spurt down the stretch to secure the 123-104 victory.

Atlanta was led by big Al Horford’s double-double performance of 18 points and 13 rebounds. Lou Williams was the high point man for the Hawks with 21 points on 9-of-16 (56.2%) shooting. Josh Smith made his way back from a hip injury on Saturday and dropped 17 points against the Rockets to go along with seven rebounds and four blocks.

Rookie sharp-shooter John Jenkins continued his great play after seeing ample playing time Monday night and finished with a new career-high 15 points while shooting 66.6% from both 2-point and 3-point range.

Jeff Teague narrowly missed posting a double-double with 10 points and nine assists.

The Atlanta Hawks (19-10) will be on the road to christen 2013 with a game against the New Orleans Hornets (7-23) on Tuesday, Jan. 1 at 8:00 PM (ET).

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Analysis

The Rockets was absolutely unconscious from long range, and despite some valiant Hawks runs to trim the gap, Houston came away with a 123-104 victory.

Al Horford picked and popped his way to 8 of Atlanta’s first 12 points. He finished with a quiet 18-13 double double. Josh Smith provided his usual rim protection with 4 blocks and a neat 17 points on 12 shots. Jeff Teague went 0-7 in the first half. Credit Jeff for staying aggressive but he just could not find his shot (4-17) or his handle on the ball (5 turnovers).

Many Hawks had good showings, however, including rookie John Jenkins, who may have found a permenant rotation spot with his recent run of good play. Despite the label of a catch-and-shoot guard, he looked smooth handling the ball and driving to the rim. He again set a new career high with 15 points on 6-9 shooting.

Back-to-back DeShawn Stevenson threes kept the Hawks competitive in the first quarter, but a 16-0 Houston run, including a 5-0 Asik rebound streak, lead to a 28-6 run and a stranglehold on the lead for the rest of the game.

The defense was a step slow and didn’t stop penetration or run out on shooters. Jeremy Lin, James Harden and Toney Douglas penetrated with no hesitance and Carlos Delfino, Marcus Morris, Patrick Patterson made the Hawks pay over and over. In the second quarter alone, the Rockets shot 63.6% (14-22) and 6-10 from three. The Hawks meanwhile were 29.2% (7-24), which resulted in a 38-19 second quarter score.

The Hawks got back into the game by blocking shots at the rim, which started transition opportunities for the many finishers on the team. The lead was down in single digits a few times, behind Lou Williams’ creative playmaking, but a 11-2 run late third sparked by Toney Douglas, yes, the same Douglas that fell out of a Knicks point guard rotation that featured Mike Bibby and Baron Davis before turning to Jeremy Lin last year, squelched any hopes of a true comeback.

Carlos Delfino stayed hot all night long. In only 30 minutes of play, he had 22 points on 10 shots without the benefit of free throws and also had 8 assists. His contributions led to an incredible +34 +/-. Omer Asik had 12 rebounds in the first half and finished with a game high 17.

To be honest, though the defense had stretches of lax play, the Rockets were simply stroking it from beyond the arc. Guard penetration led to open shooters, and Houston executed to perfection. It has even made the Rockets a top 6 team in the brutal Western Conference, despite doubts from many about their ability to compete.

The diagnosis for the Hawks defense is simple but the fix is more complex. Can Larry Drew count on Lou Williams and Jeff Teague to stop point guards from driving or does he need to send double teams at the three point line? I It remains just one loss for the 19-10 Hawks, but defensive communication and execuation must improve as Atlanta moves into 2013.

It’s a quick turnaround for the Atlanta Hawks as the head to New Orleans for a showdown against the Pelicans Hornets tomorrow night.

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Game Leaders

Minutes: Jeremy Lin (40)

Points: James Harden (28)

Rebounds: Omer Asik (17)

Assists: Jeff Teague (9)

Steals: Jeremy Lin (4)

Blocks: Josh Smith (4)

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Player of the Game

James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets takes a shot over Al Horford #15 of the Atlanta Hawks at the Toyota Center on December 31, 2012 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (December 30, 2012 – Source: Scott Halleran/Getty Images North America)

James Harden

James Harden led Houston with a game-high 28 points and was phenomenal at getting to the free-throw line with ease as he drew fouls on the hacking Hawks all night long. He did an even better job at capitalizing on the situation by sinking 12-of-13 foul-shots.

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Upcoming Match-Up

The Atlanta Hawks will be on the road in New Orleans for New Year’s as the play the Hornets on Tuesday at 8:00 PM (ET).

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