The Houston Roundball Review is an online basketball publication
by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Katrina McClain, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.

Contact Kris Gardner for details pertaining to advertising on the website; the blogs; and / or the podcasts.

Rockets lose 134-127 to Hawks; 11-game home win streak snapped

POSTED: December 20, 2023 -- 11:25 p.m. CT

HOUSTON, TX (Toyota Center) -- The Houston Rockets lost 134-127 to the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday night. Houston's defense struggled to stop the Hawks in the first, second, and fourth quarters.

With the win tonight, the Hawks have won five of the seven games against the Rockets after losing a series-high tying six straight prior.

Houston has now allowed 120+ points in each of the past three games after doing so four times the first 22 games of the season.

The Hawks scored 113 points combined in those three quarters. The Rockets outscored the Hawks 35-21 in the third quarter.

"That third quarter is probably the only quarter where we looked ourselves," Fred VanVleet commented after the game. "We weren't trading baskets. We're getting stops; getting out in transition; put pressure on the rim; and, kinda controlling them."

The Rockets (13-12) led the Hawks (13-15) by 2 (100-98) after the great third quarter.

The start to the 4th quarter; however, was a disaster: the Hawks blitzed the Rockets with a 9-0 run in 2 minutes, 12 seconds.

Former Houston Rockets' guard Garrison Mathews was left open during a Hawks' transition opportunity. Mathews splashed the three-pointer as rookie Amen Thompson lost Mathews. Then, Hawks' big man Onyeka Okongwu got dunks on three consecutive possessions due to porous Rockets' pick-and-roll defense.

"They (the Hawks) got, I think, three lobs in a row slipping out of screens," Ime Udoka, Rockets said after the game. "Whether it's big or small, something we worked on and talked about; and, that's what hurt us in the start of the (fourth) quarter."

The Rockets trailed 107-100 with 9:48 to go in the fourth quarter. Coach Udoka called timeout. Dillon Brooks checked into the game for Aaron Holiday. Brooks sank a three-pointer; but, Hawks' forward Saddiq Bey got a dunk before teammate Bogdan Bogdanovic swished a three-pointer; then, Okongwu grabbed an offensive rebound and scored a put back layup to boost the Hawks' lead to 114-103 with 8:18 on the clock.

Okongwu added another alley oop dunk and 2 more free throws during a 10-3 Hawks' spurt as the Rockets' deficit grew to 18 (127-109) with 6 minutes left in the final period.

Jabari Smith Jr. sank a turnaround jumper which began a 14-0 Rockets' run over the next 4 plus minutes. Houston began trapping Hawks' guard Trae Young near midcourt; and, the Hawks responded with 6 turnovers -- including 2 shot clock violations -- in three minutes, 27 seconds.

Houston battled back to within 4 twice -- the last at 129-125 with 52.3 seconds remaining. Young did a much better job against the Rockets' trapping defense and tossed a pass to Saddiq Bey. Bey knocked down a three-pointer with 28.7 seconds remaining. Seven seconds later, Jalen Green got a dunk (assist from VanVleet); but, Young banked in a floater with 21.9 seconds on the clock. Houston failed to score as the Hawks picked up the win.

Houston's struggles on defense over-shadowed big performances by Jabari Smith Jr. and Fred VanVleet.

Smith Jr. had a career-high 34 points with 13 rebounds and a career-high 4 blocks while shooting 4 for 7 from 3-point range. It is the fourth time a player has recorded at least 34 points, 13 boards, 4 blocks and 4 3FGM in a game (Anthony Davis for New Orleans at the Clippers on Mar. 6, 2018, Luka Doncic for Dallas at Charlotte on Jan. 13, 2021 and Kristaps Porzingis for Dallas at Minnesota on Mar. 1, 2020).

VanVleet had a season-high 32 points and 15 assists tonight after recording 27 points and a season-high 17 assists at Cleveland on 12/18. The only other Rocket in franchise history to have at least 27 points and 15 assists in consecutive games was James Harden from Nov. 1 to Nov. 2, 2016. VanVleet only had 2 turnovers tonight and has 46 assists with 5 turnovers over the past four games.

The Rockets had made 16 three-pointers the Hawks' 17 made threes. The Rockets were also outrebounded 44-37. Houston falls to 1-9 when not having more three-point field goals made than its opponent this season and 4-8 when failing to outrebound the opposition.


The Rockets' next game is Friday, December 22, at home, against the Dallas Mavericks. Tip is set for 7 p.m. Central Time.

SUPPORT The Houston Roundball Review:

Purchase your Houston Rockets' gear at via this link;

Get ESPN+ via this link;

Save when you get the Disney bundle (ESPN+, Disney+ and Hulu) with this link;

OR, contribute via PayPal or the Cash App.

CLICK HERE for The HRR's Rockets' write-ups.

Click here to Support The HRR

The HRR's YouTube Channel

Ime Udoka: "not the best pick-and-roll defense"

Fred VanVleet discusses the Hawks' carved up the Rockets' pick-and-roll defense.

Jabari Smith Jr says the Rockets' problems defending the pick-and-roll can be corrected.

Official Merchandise

Houston Roundball Review Merch

Shop at

HBCUs gear

Houston Cougars gear

Rice Owls gear

Texas A&M Aggies gear

Texas Longhorns gear

Texas Southern Tigers gear

Shop at

Houston Rockets gear

Shop at