Notebook: Rockets 123, Hawks 104

Posted Dec 31, 2012 10:48 PM

By Matt Miller, For

THE FACTS: The Houston Rockets were happy to see veteran wing Carlos Delfino bolster their bench with his return from a two-game absence. They just had no idea he would make such a huge impact in his first outing since recovering from food poisoning.

Delfino made several clutch plays during the final quarter and a half, en route to posting season highs of 22 points and eight assists to help Houston hold off the Atlanta Hawks 123-104 Monday at Toyota Center. James Harden led the surging Rockets (17-14), who closed 2012 by winning six of their last eight games, with 28 points.

Lou Williams continued his torrid stretch since joining the Hawks' starting lineup, netting 21 points on 9-for-16 shooting. Al Horford added a double-double of 18 points and 13 rebounds for Atlanta (19-10), which lost for the first time in five games.

QUOTABLE: "It was all about team basketball. We shared the ball. We passed the ball. We found the open guy. When we're hitting shots and playing together, it's much easier."

-- Carlos Delfino

TURNING POINT: Atlanta's jump shots fell during the early stages of Monday's contest, as it nailed 11 of its 21 field-goal attempts in the opening quarter to grab a 27-26 lead. But Houston continued to keep the Hawks' offense out of the paint while stretching their defense in transition with scorching 3-point shooting and strong drives, leading to a 32-10 run that gave the Rockets a 58-37 advantage.

THE STAT: Delfino's aim was deadly when Houston needed it most. After the Hawks trimmed an 18-point halftime deficit to 81-73, 90-81, and then 102-97, respectively, Delfino provided the heroics by draining three key 3-pointers as Houston snapped a two-game skid.

HOT: Houston was unconscious over the first 10 minutes of the second period, burying 13 of the team's 17 field-goal attempts -- including 5-for-7 shooting from behind the arc -- while outscoring the Hawks 34-13. The Rockets finished the game 45-for-84 (53.6 percent) from the floor, becoming only the third Hawks' opponent this season to hit at least half of their shots.

QUOTABLE II: "Houston's shooting pretty much sums it up. They got on a streak where they couldn't miss. Delfino shot the ball extremely well. We wanted to make them beat us on the perimeter, and when it rains, it pours. Their shooting got everyone else playing confidently."

-- Josh Smith

NOT: Atlanta's Jeff Teague, who entered Monday averaging 21.0 points on 53.1 percent (17-for-32) shooting over his last two games, delivered a dreadful offensive performance. The fourth-year point guard finished with only 10 points on 4-for-17 (23.5 percent) shooting.

GOOD MOVE: The Rockets' reserves fed off each others' energy by sharing the ball, crashing the boards as a gang and utilizing communication on the defensive end to keep Atlanta's offense in check. In addition to handing out five more assists (13-8) and scoring 14 more points (49-35) than the Hawks' bench, Houston's backups connected on 10 of their 15 (66.7 percent) attempts from long distance.

BAD MOVE: During the second quarter, the Rockets ripped off a 16-0 run with their best player, Harden, sitting on the bench. Hawks coach Larry Drew used only one timeout to try to slow Houston's overwhelming momentum. With his team throwing away the ball, settling for deep jump shots and scrambling to defend the Rockets' ball movement, Drew and his staff could have used another break in the action to try to get his players on the same page again.

NOTABLE: Smith (hip) returned to the Hawks' lineup after missing Saturday's victory over Indiana. ... Atlanta remains without starting point guard Devin Harris and reserve guard Anthony Morrow, neither of whom traveled with the team on its two-game road trip that ends Tuesday in New Orleans. "We won't know how long [they will be out] until we get back [to Atlanta]," Drew said. "We're still just treating both guys." ... Atlanta set a franchise record, extending its streak of consecutive games with at least 10 3-point field goals to four. ... The Hawks have dropped their last five meetings with Houston. ... Smith is 12 rebounds shy of reaching 5,000 for his career. ... The Rockets, who improved to 7-1 this season when they bury at least 40.0 percent of their 3-point attempts, matched their franchise record for most made treys at Toyota Center (16). ... Houston shot a season-high 61.5 percent over the opening two periods while recording its 13th 60-point half of the season. ... The Rockets improved to 12-2 against the Eastern Conference.

UP NEXT: For the Hawks, Tuesday @ New Orleans, Friday @ Detroit, Saturday vs. Boston. For the Rockets, Wednesday vs. New Orleans, Friday @ Milwaukee, Saturday @ Cleveland.