At the end of the day, it was just one loss for the Atlanta Hawks. But falling 128-122 to the Houston Rockets is going to sting for a while – they won’t each other again until next season barring a surprising (to say the least) meeting in the NBA Finals. They split the regular-season series for the second year in a row with the Hawks taking the first meeting at home.
The NBA is a “what have you done for me lately” league, though. This being the most recent encounter does not leave a good lasting image for the Hawks.
It was already ugly with Hawks star Dejounte Murray the center of some controversy after patting Rockets rookie Jabari Smith Jr. on the head during the game – an action that sparked an altercation on the floor.
But Murray was not the only one to hear about his antics; teammate Trae Young did too.
Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young takes shot from Houston Rockets’ Jalen Green
Young finished the game with a season-high 44 points thanks in no small part to hitting 14-of-16 free throws with five assists to four turnovers. After a 13-point third quarter, Young combined with Murray for just 14 fourth-quarter points on 3-of-9 shooting from the floor. But it was the skirmish that stole the show.
The game featured plenty of
showboating flair from the Hawks’ fiery backcourt duo of Murray and Young.
At one point in the fourth quarter as the Hawks trailed by four points with 1:11 to go, Green – who had 30 points, five boards, and five assists to go with six giveaways – tripped Young sending the Hawks star to the free-throw line.
Green could be seen walking to the Rockets’ bench gesturing as he might have had he dunked the ball in mockery of the earlier slights from the Hawks.
Teammate Kevin Porter Jr. – 12 points, 10 assists – joined Green in having the last laugh.
“We’re not gonna take disrespect,” Green said of Murray and Young’s antics, per Kelly Iko of The Athletic. “Ever. No matter who it is. And we’re always going to have each other’s back, those are my brothers. We need each other at the end of the day and we’re gonna rock with each other at the end of the day.”
Young got up slowly after taking the foul but the Hawks’ pride was hurt more than anything. As head coach Nate McMillan said, the Hawks made it a shootout instead of establishing what had been a top-12 defense in terms of efficiency.
He has seemingly since responded to the parting shots delivered by the Rockets’ upstart backcourt.
Whether this is in direct response to Green and Porter’s posts or some other conversation is not completely clear. What is clear is that the Hawks forgot about their ultimate goal and got caught up in what appeared to be a runaway victory as they built up a 16-point lead near the middle of the third quarter just before the fracas broke out.
From that point on, the Hawks shot 30% from the floor and went 1-for-11 from beyond the arc.
Onyeka Okongwu, who started for the injured Clint Capela (dental pain), failed to even attempt a shot in over 32 minutes of floor time and the Hawks were outrebounded 59-28 (no, that’s not a typo).
Still, the lasting images from this game will be the Hawks making light of their opponent only to receive instant karma.